By Kyle Barr
There is a forest painted on the wall just to the left as you walk into the interview room. It is filled with thin trees, birds and bees that glow in the sunshine from a oversized sun. “We try and make it as smooth a transition as possible for the kids,” said Community Educator Kristy Longman as she shut the light to one of the many child interview rooms. Every few feet there is another room with another painting inside the Safe Center LI of Nassau County.
Ms. Longman heads down another hallway. There is a sudden transition into white walls, cubicles and overhead lights of a regular office building. On those walls hang small orange papers, laminated and stuck onto one of the walls with tape. Ms. Longman reads it out loud, “One in five kids are sexually abused before the age of 18.” There are many of these spread throughout the Safe Center.
On March 18, the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV) and the Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect (CCAN) formed a merger to bring both together along with their resources to create the Safe Center LI located on 15 Grumman Road West in Bethpage, NY.
The Safe Center, combining the resources of both groups, aims to provide aid all different forms of victims of abuse from victims of domestic violence, child abuse, rape, sexual assault and dating violence. The center attempts to offer counseling and therapy for victims, transitional housing, safe homes for abused families and legal services that provides Pro bono attorneys for people seeking representation in anything from child custody, paternity, immigration and divorce.
The press conference, attended by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, tried to showcase the benefits of having both agencies combined into one non-profit center for every different kind of abuse.
“Everybody knows that government alone can’t solve every problem and that’s why the progressive, groundbreaking collaboration we have her is so important,” said DA Rice. The center also holds a team of investigators from Nassau County including Police Detectives, Child Protective Services, District Attorney and Nassau University Medical Center who are co-located on site.
When asked about the possibility for people from Suffolk county to attain services, Director Scott said that they would not refuse aid to anyone who came by, but DA Rice was quick to say that police had no jurisdiction in Suffolk County, and that calls of danger would have to be directed to Suffolk County Police. Several other centers were pointed out for people in Suffolk County including Suffolk County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk, The Retreat Domestic Violence Services and Brighter Tomorrows.
Safe Center LI Co-Executive Director Cynthia G. Scott took the podium and spoke about the merger. “The decisions to collocate and to merge were both mission driven… it was done to bring the best and most comprehensive services to the people of Nassau County.”
Yet, Director Scott also touched on the financial benefits of the merger. The Safe Center has seen an “unexpected” increase in fund-raising, saying that apparently “people like mergers.”
For the past four years, both the CCAN and the CADV were both housed under one roof. The merger has only completed the process that had already been happening for a while. “Being under one roof for four years proved our hypothesis that in doing so it would benefit our clients. We knew merging into one organization would allow us to collaborate and coordinate services in ways we couldn’t as two,” said Director Scott.