By: Sarah Snyder
A spike in domestic violence has Midland County leaders reconfiguring budgets to find a way to help. It's an effort that's impacting agencies all over the county who counsel families across the Basin.
"They're in a panic," Carole Wayland, Executive Director, Safe Place said. "They're scared, their kids are shell-shocked."
Each year, almost 2,000 families who have struggled with domestic violence walk through the doors at Safe Place, and counselors say, that's a number that just keeps growing.
"We've seen a rise in the fatality issues that are going on," Wayland said. "We always have those, but not nearly as much as last year."
Not only are there more cases, but there's also a higher level of severity.
"I think some of it is just an increase in population and activity," Wayland said. "I think some of it could be related to the economic crisis we're in."
It's an issue that forced County Commissioners to sit up and take notice. They've developed a fund for these help agencies using the fees from divorce cases.
"The logic behind it is, the state saw fit, that if a couple is getting divorced, it almost always affects children very adversely," Randy Prude, Midland County Commissioner for Prec. 4, said. "So they wanted to add a little bit of a fee instead of just charging taxpayers, is to let them pay for the help that comes to children."
Safe Place is one of the groups getting the cash and they say it couldn't have come at a better time.
"Donations and contributions coming in are not there like they were in the past to help substantiate the need for services," Wayland said. "I think we're all stretched a little bit thin as far as trying to meet the needs and address those issues."
The $10-20 divorce fee is put aside and over the past two years they've raised over $20,000 which they'll divide up among several different organizations.
"Anytime we as the Commissioners Court in Midland have the chance to allow fees, in other words if somebody uses our services and they pay for them, that keeps the taxpayer or the property owner from having to pay them," Commissioner Prude said.
Commissioner Prude says this is a cause near and dear to his heart and this year he plans to approach other West Texas counties to get them on board with the idea.
"I don't think there's anything more important I can do as a Commissioner than to help people that can't help themselves, especially children or elderly," Commissioner Prude said. "So anytime you get a chance to fight for their behalf, that's something very exciting to do as an elected official in Midland County."