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Houston Using COVID-19 Relief Money For Domestic Violence Response

Houston police say they’re seeing an increase in calls for mental health and domestic violence cases during the pandemic.

Houston police Lt. Julie Pleasant speaks during a news conference announcing a domestic violence response initiative at City Hall.

The city is allocating $6.2 million from the CARES Act for a domestic violence response program, as incidents have gone up significantly this year.

It will allow special intervention teams made up of police officers, medical and mental health professionals, and victims' advocates to respond to more calls by paying overtime.

The majority of the funds, $5 million, will go to the Domestic Abuse Response Team, while nearly $400,000 will go to the Crisis Intervention Response Team. The Houston Area Women's Center will also receive $49,500 to expand its hotline.

Lt. Julie Pleasant, who leads HPD's Victim Services Unit, said domestic incidents are more violent this year and victims are more often ending up in the hospital.

"For instance, for all of 2019 we had 281 strangulation cases for the entire year," she said. "Right now, as of October 15, for 2020, we've had 416."

Mayor Sylvester Turner attributed the rise in violent crime and mental health issues to the effects of the pandemic.

"People have lost their jobs, people are staying home more so than in the past. There are a lot of different factors that are in place. People are concerned about their ability to pay their bills," he said. "And when you combine these healthcare issues with these economic issues, with the relational issues all layered on top of one another, there are a lot of people who are just on edge."

Add to that the wide distribution of guns and things can escalate quickly, Turner said.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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