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From the Daily Record

MORRISTOWN – Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Jersey Battered Women’s Service entered a new era Wednesday with the launch of a new one-stop source of hope for domestic-violence and sexual-assault victims in Morris County.

Gathering with local, state and national partners at the United Methodist Church, the Morristown-based JBWS proudly announced the creation of the Morris Family Justice Center, which is expected to open by the end of the month on the fourth floor of the County Administration and Records Building next to the Morris County Courthouse.

“In our 40 years, JBWS has evolved into a full-service domestic-violence agency and opening a family justice center is the next logical step in improving services,” JBWS Executive Director Patricia Sly said. “The model is recognized as a best practice in the field of domestic violence by the U.S. Department of Justice, and Morris County will become the second community in the state, joining Essex County, to set up a family justice center.”

“I think this is something that Morris County is really going to benefit from, it’s going to help families be safe and turn their lives around,” said Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo, who with her fellow board members unanimously approved an agreement to let the center occupy and use the building space at no cost.

Representing the nationwide family-justice center movement at the launch were Casey Gwinn and Gael Strack, who cofounded the first family justice center in San Diego. The pair led group exercises and strategic-planning sessions during the event. Their presentation included the screening of a video with domestic-violence victims sharing their struggle and how family justice centers helped them.

“When Gail and I started this journey together, Morris County, New Jersey, wasn’t really on our radar screen,” said Gwinn, a former prosecutor. “Though I will say that less than five years into our work, I knew about the Jersey Battered Women’s Services. Jersey Battered Women’s Services has a national reputation.”

“The key here is ending the cycle of abuse so that in future years, maybe we won’t need a family-justice center,” said Morris County Prosecutor Fredric Knapp. “We have over 2,300 domestic-violence cases here in Morris County. It’s one of our busiest units, It’s almost a shocking amount, and something we are obviously not happy about. So if there are things we can do to alleviate or reduce the problem, that’s what we’re here for.”

Marianne McCrone, coordinator for the MFJC, said the 2,500-square-foot center will include a reception area, two intake offices, a living room and a playroom for children, several counselling rooms, offices for the Morris County Prosecutor, legal services and police and two more rooms for group-therapy sessions.

“I’ve been in the domestic violence field for eight years,” said McCrone, a Roxbury resident. “I’m really excited to be doing this because it is looking at the bigger picture rather than the specific issue. This brings together the different fields — sexual assault, human trafficking, domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse. You don’t really get to understand the movement until you get to see all these people in one place, especially with the alliance team with us. So it is encouraging, to say the least.”

The center will be open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with evening hours by appointment only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Walk-ins are welcome, although everyone will ave to pass through the Administration Building’s police-staffed security station and a metal detector.

The launch of the center was funded by a federal grant from the Office on Violence Against Women and the New Jersey-based Provident Bank Foundation.

“I’m so glad to be a part of this,” said Lolita Navarro-Iqbal, an Advanced Practical Nurse who formerly directed inpatient psychiatric services at Morristown Medical Center and now volunteers for the shelter while in private practice in Florham Park. “I’m very committed to helping women and their children so they can move on in their lives instead of being victimized all the time.”

Local partners in the center project include the Morris County Freeholders, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, Morris County Superior Court, Legal Services of Northwest Jersey, Morris County Organization for Hispanic Affairs, Morris County Sheriff’s Office, Morris County Bar Foundation, Morris Cares, Manavi, and the Morristown Police Department.

More information is available at www.jbws.org.

Staff Writer William Westhoven: 973-917-9242; wwesthoven@GannettNJ.com.