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PCADV’s Lethality Assessment Program reaches 10-year milestone

October 24, 2022

Growing implementation rates continue to lead to improved outcomes for domestic violence survivors

HARRISBURG, Pa., (October 24, 2022) — Since 2001, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) has been tracking domestic violence homicides in Pennsylvania and publishing annual fatality reports and a public homicide tracking dashboard. In 2009, in response to a disturbing trend—a forty-nine percent increase in intimate partner-related domestic violence homicides—PCADV prioritized proactively addressing lethality risk and began researching risk assessment tools.

In 2012, PCADV began leading the implementation of Maryland’s evidence-based Lethality Assessment Program (LAP) in Pennsylvania. LAP is risk assessment tool used voluntarily and collaboratively through partnership between local police departments and the local domestic violence program. When participating police departments respond to an intimate partner domestic violence call, they ask the victim a series of established questions that helps determine their risk for lethality. Depending on the answers, if the victim screens as high danger the officer attempts to connect the victim directly with the local domestic violence program so they can begin safety planning at what may be the most dangerous time.

In the last ten years, more than 1,600 people have died as the result of domestic violence in Pennsylvania. In that time, the LAP program has grown from 12 police departments and nine local programs to 436 participating law enforcement agencies and 48 of 59 of PCADV’s local domestic violence programs. Through this collaborative model, “Over 15,000 victims in the last 10 years have sought services from the dedicated work of police and DV programs,” said Lois Fasnacht, senior training specialist and LAP program manager, adding, “I think it’s phenomenal.” More than 8,000 of those victims were screened as high danger and sought potentially life-saving services from a local domestic violence program.

Ten years later, LAP participation is still growing and the communities where it is implemented continue to see improved outcomes for domestic violence victims. PCADV, with funding secured from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency continues to track, in collaboration, with the Pennsylvania State Data Center, Institute for State and Regional Affairs at the Pennsylvania State University Harrisburg, program data which is published publicly via a digital dashboard system.