Published 9:05 am Thursday, March 6, 2014

WINDSOR – The 15-year old Roanoke Chowan Domestic Violence Offender Program is getting a facelift, or more like a new partner.

The program, part of the Roanoke Chowan Domestic Violence Task Force, a non-profit organization, is being taken over by another regional non-profit, the Rural Initiatives Changing Communities Everyday, Inc, or RICCE, and will continue the program’s operation for the people of Judicial District 6B and later this year when it will simply be District 6.

Monday, at the regular meeting of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners, the Hon. Judge W. Rob Lewis presented before the board the Memorandum of Agreement which transfers services for domestic violence abusers to the new group, RICCE, and carry the program forward. Present at the meeting with Lewis was Roanoke Chowan Domestic Violence Task Force chairman, Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh.

Lewis said RCDVTF board members approached Intergrated Family Services’ Program Officer Tony Rook and Natasha Holley, the group’s Clinical Director, about taking over the program.

One convenience of transferring the program would be that it would still be instituted by another non-profit entity.

Due to extreme difficulty over the past several years in securing financial resources, Lewis stated that RCDVTF can no longer operate the Offender Program.

“We’re excited about the new project,” said RICCE Executive Director Jaime Heckstall.”We first want to thank the Task Force for extending the program and entrusting us with it.”

Heckstall said there would be some changes in the administration of the program, but that the staff would remain.

“The program itself and how the groups are run will not change,” Heckstall added.

Currently, offender program participants – domestic violence abusers – meet weekly for 26 weeks at two sites within the judicial district: Thursdays in Jackson, in Northampton County; and Saturdays at Northside Behavioral Health in Ahoskie. For the class, two facilitators use the Duluth model, recognized nationally and internationally as the leading tool for helping communities eliminate violence in the lives of women and children. These domestic violence trainings and resource materials help community activists, human service providers, and community leaders make a direct impact on domestic violence.

In his presentation before the board, Lewis said the goals of the agreement through the merger will be three-fold: to acknowledge the commitment of both RCDVTF and RICCE to establish a cooperative working relationship that will facilitate the establishment and provision of effective services to domestic violence abusers in Judicial District 6-B; to define the basic roles and responsibilities for each party and the mechanism for disseminating information and resolving problems; and to clarify the mechanisms and procedures for clients of the Offender Program to be transferred to RICCE.

For its part, RICCE must provide the services to both court-ordered and voluntary offenders; assist them in meeting the goals of the program; meet state standards for batterer intervention programs, provide trained facilitators; maintain contact with local victims’ services; ensure that clients remain in the program until either completion or termination; and that both RICCE and RCDVTF representatives attend regularly scheduled meetings.

The commissioners received the report, but did not take any action.  The board did indicate they want the program to continue because of the segment of the county’s population that the domestic violence offender program serves.