There is more ammunition on the way for St. Mary’s County in the battle against domestic violence. On Monday, March 31, Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown [D] visited MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital (MSSMH) to launch a new “hospital-based” domestic violence program. The Leonardtown facility has obtained a $40,000 grant from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP), a portion of which will be used for the purchase of a device that will aid law enforcement in gathering evidence.

“This is a fantastic rural community in which to test this program,” said Brown, who indicated the fight to eradicate domestic violence is a personal mission.

“No family, no community is immune from the threat,” said Brown, who explained that one of his cousins was murdered by her estranged boyfriend. While he acknowledged that Maryland has made significant strides in lowering domestic violence-related homicides, “we’ve got a lot more work to do. We are not going to rest until all Marylanders are free of the threat.”

After a brief mid-morning press conference at the hospital, Brown spoke confidently about the chances the Maryland General Assembly would pass a measure to reduce the standard of proof in domestic violence cases. Brown stated he was “100 percent” sure the state lawmakers would finally OK the legislation to change the requirement to obtain a final protective order from “clear and convincing evidence” to “a preponderance of the evidence.” The Maryland Senate has already approved the measure.

According to a press release from Brown’s office, the St. Mary’s program “is Maryland’s ninth hospital-based domestic violence program designed to meet the goals of the Governor’s 2010 Executive Order ‘The Maryland Domestic Violence Health Care Screening and Response Initiative.’ ”

According to Justice Shisler of GOCCP, over $630,000 worth of grant funding was allocated to Maryland hospitals last year for the fight against domestic violence.  Shisler said St. Mary’s Hospital staff submitted the grant application last May. After a panel reviewed the request the grant was approved.

“Our goal is to create and implement the program,” said Darla Hardy of the hospital’s Office of Nursing Resources. Hardy stated the hospital has already hired a coordinator. The funds will also be used to purchase a forensics imaging device that hospital personnel may use to aid law enforcement in identifying evidence of physical abuse. The device, which costs thousands of dollars, is used to detect bruises consistent with choking incidents.