Story by: John Huotari

The district attorney general in Anderson County has received a $240,000 federal grant to set up a family justice center.

The Anderson County Family Justice Center will help combat child abuse, domestic abuse, and elder abuse, Seventh Judicial District Attorney General Dave Clark said in press release on Tuesday. It will be organized and formed during the first year or two of the grant contract, Clark said.

“Upon opening the actual center, there will be a location where (Anderson County residents) with abuse issues can go to get services from a variety of providers who will all have a representative located in the Family Justice Center,” Clark said. “In addition, referrals may be made by the Family Justice Center to other organizations that can provide help.”

Melissa Miller has been hired as the site coordinator of the Family Justice Center.

Clark said the federal grant includes a contract for 100 percent grant funding to continue for three years, with the expectation of additional funding in later years.

Clark said child abuse, domestic abuse, and elder abuse can be devastating to the victims and families involved, and people often don’t know where to go to get help.

“These family struggles are also corrosive for a community,” Clark said. “They result in lost time from work or school, mental and physical health issues, numerous police calls for service, and many other types of costs. The Family Justice Center is intended to provide help to our victims, families, and the whole community. The Family Justice Center approach has the promise of making our elders, children, and other domestic violence victims safer and our community better by providing more coordination among the involved organizations as well as a simpler and more complete way to get help for victims, all with grant funding.”

Only eight other counties among Tennessee’s 95 counties have a family justice center, the press release said.

Miller, the site coordinator of the new center in Anderson County, has joined the DA’s office to lead the project. Miller is a former middle school teacher who has experience in Anderson County’s courts working as a victim advocate for domestic abuse victims and as an advocate for children in abuse and neglect cases. She has also mentored high school seniors through the college application process through the Tennessee Promise mentoring program, the press release said. Miller and her family live in Oak Ridge.

“We are very fortunate to have found someone with Melissa’s skill, commitment, and experience to lead us in this new effort, and we are very excited to have her on board,” Clark said.

Clark learned that the federal grant had been awarded to his office this month, after a competitive application process. The grant is administered by the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs. Area organizations involved in combating abuse had expressed support for the grant, the press release said.

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