Washington Co. Family Justice Center marks one year; Sullivan Co. follows its lead
Two centers in our region, focused on helping victims of domestic and sexual assaults, are marking milestones.
The Washington County/Johnson City Family Justice Center has been open for one year. The center in Sullivan County is just getting off the ground, but it isn't far behind.
Family Justice Centers are places where victims can go for legal help, medical care and counseling. There are eight across Tennessee.
Opening just one year ago, every room in the Washington County/Johnson City Family Justice Center is occupied.
"We went from walking, crawling to flying all in the space of 12 months," site coordinator Heather Brack said.
Police, lawyers, nurses and counselors all under one roof to help victims of domestic and sexual assault. Brack said so far, they've helped nearly 500 people.
"There is a believe that people have to go through this alone," she said. "And the number one thing we want to challenge is that nobody has to go through this alone."
Holly Fuller gives victims legal advice, splitting her time between the two centers in Washington and Sullivan counties.
"We have such a great need," Fuller said. "We are pretty much always having clients come in and call, pretty much everyday."
The Sullivan county site formed a year ago, but it isn't open yet. So its leaders are getting some good advice from Washington County.
"No Family Justice Center looks the same," site coordinator Karen Boyd said. "So even if we follow the way they set theirs up, our is going to look different because the needs here are different."
Boyd has also noticed some similarities.
"We both have aging populations, so we're both concerned about vulnerable adult abuse," Boyd said.
According to TBI in 2015, there were 1,817 reported cases of domestic violence in Sullivan County. In Washington County, there were 958.
But Brack said around half of the people who come to the FJC have not filed a police report.
"Just tracking it through the crime data is unfortunately, just the beginning of the surface," she said.
So the two centers count on each other to reach as many victims as possible.
"In addition to collaborating in our own communities and in our own counties, we can collaborate with their center very easily," Boyd said.
"We are the closest two FJC's in the state of Tennessee and what we're able to do - we kind of affectionately refer to as a sister FJC's," Brack added.
The FJC in Johnson City will have a celebration to mark its first year on Friday at 11 a.m. The center in Sullivan County plans to be fully up and running within the next year.