FSU criminologists partner with Palm Beach County to address victim services related to impaired driving deaths

FSU and Victim Services will seek to connect victims and their families to evidence-based, trauma-informed services, such as crisis counseling on scene.

Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal Justice is partnering with Palm Beach County Victim Services to address the emotional, psychological, physical and financial aftermath associated with DUI/impaired driving-related deaths. 

The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Victims of Crime has awarded a grant called Vision 21: Multidisciplinary Responses to Families in Complex Homicide Cases to the county’s Victim Services division. Palm Beach County was the only site in the nation selected to address cases of DUI-related death.

“Our partnership with victim services is just another example of how the college is working to bring research to life,” said Thomas Blomberg, dean of the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. “In this case, we are tasked with preparing a logic model, identifying needed data and utilizing appropriate data collection methods as part of an overall program evaluation. This multidisciplinary response will serve as an example for others to replicate around the country and ultimately help improve victim services.”

The goal is to develop comprehensive assistance for DUI survivors and family members to help bridge their often unmet and complex needs with available community resources. Impaired driving crashes are often treated initially as accidents instead of crimes. This hinders the appropriate delivery of victim services or may block services altogether.

In the immediate aftermath, the family must take care of normal tasks related to a death, then navigate through the complexities of the investigation and cope with their own physical and emotional responses to the trauma. FSU and Victim Services will seek to connect victims and their families to evidence-based, trauma-informed services, including crisis counseling on scene, court accompaniment, grief counseling, advocacy and financial recovery assistance. 

Through the Vision 21 grant, FSU and Victim Services will collaborate with the Sheriff’s Office and Mothers Against Drunk Driving to implement promising multidisciplinary responses and evidenced-based practices to address the needs of families and communities throughout complex homicide cases.

In 2014, the most recent year with data available, there were 685 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in Florida, which was 28 percent of all traffic-related deaths. Only a small fraction of the families of victims and surviving victims of DUIs used the services available by the division’s partners.