PLATTSBURGH — Daily life can be challenging enough for those with disabilities, but any difficulty can intensify during instances of domestic violence."There's a growing concern in our community about services for people with disabilities who suffer from domestic violence," said Behavioral Health Services North STOP Domestic Violence Coordinator Maxine Perry.She spoke at a recent Clinton County STOP Domestic Violence Task Force meeting designed to raise awareness about the unique and growing problem."It's just something that we need to do as a community to get that dialogue started so that we can make provisions for people with disabilities who suffer from domestic violence," she said.Recent cases have particularly shown the growing need for specialized services, Perry said, especially when there is continued abuse at the hands of a caregiver."We just didn't have any services to send them to (initially), and they didn't have anywhere to go."During the monthly meeting, Task Force members addressed the issues that have arisen regarding local cases, including the long process to determine or revise specialized care eligibility and how to immediately continue care of disabled residents who are removed from a dangerous or violent situation.Officials also noted the need for local safe houses to more properly accommodate the needs of disabled residents, like becoming wheelchair accessible.According to statistics presented in a recent state training program for domestic-violence and disability service providers, women with disabilities are at least one-and-a-half to two times more likely than those without disabilities to experience abuse."It's not so much about who we serve, but the issues that we serve: disabilities," said Andrew Pulrang, director of the North Country Center for Independence in Plattsburgh, who has worked closely with local STOP Domestic Violence officials during past incidents of reported abuse that involved a person with a disability.Pulrang attended the state training program, where he learned that, in a recent survey, 92 percent of women who face disabilities ranked violence and abuse as the top priority of topics that affected their lives.He advised Task Force members to examine and identify the most important need or challenge in each unique case."It's important to take a closer look. You have to dig a little bit and ask," said Pulrang.He also elaborated on the social stigmas that surround disabilities and the challenges they can present, including higher rates of unemployment and depression.A recent United States Department of Justice Disabilities Grant Program was also funded to help address the unique needs of disabled women facing domestic violence by increasing awareness, education and training in national service programs."It's important for the services community to begin working toward provisions that will better assist local disabled residents who become victimized by domestic violence, Perry said."It's about raising awareness and getting the dialogue going."
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