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Bay Pines considers closing domestic violence program for veterans

ST. PETERSBURG — The Bay Pines VA Medical Center is considering closing its domestic violence intervention program.

The coordinator, Elaine Torosian, has announced to the state and local domestic violence activists that the decision has been made to end the program.

But on Wednesday, a Bay Pines spokeswoman said Torosian made that announcement without the knowledge of Bay Pines leaders and said the news was premature.

Spokeswoman Faith Belcher said the program served just 26 veterans last year, and the facility has to decide if continuing it is a good use of resources.

The same counseling services, she said, are available in the private sector.

In a Jan. 20 letter to the state Department of Children and Families, Torosian wrote that the program, created in 1998, was a success and was especially important with reports of increased domestic violence among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Members of the Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force said they vehemently oppose closing it.

"It's a shortsighted decision," Linda Osmundson, executive director of Community Action Stops Abuse, said before learning that a decision isn't final. "Frankly, domestic violence is a problem the VA and the military wishes would just go away."

Veterans receive group counseling in the 26-week program. The majority of veterans participating are referred by judges after being charged with domestic violence.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5306.

Bay Pines considers closing domestic violence program for veterans 02/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 9:55pm]
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