MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
We're going to hear next about a program that helps victims of domestic violence take legal action while they receive medical care. This program at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey, has been operating for a few years and is about to expand. NPR's Laura Starecheski reports.
LAURA STARECHESKI, BYLINE: If you've ever used video on Skype or FaceTime then you can picture how this special program at St. Joseph's works. In the emergency room here - it's a busy one - patients are screened for domestic violence. For those who choose to explain their injuries, the evidence is often painfully clear, says Sister Maryanne Campeotto.
MARYANNE CAMPEOTTO: Broken bones, broken arm, or broken leg, broken nose.
STARECHESKI: Sister Maryanne helped start this program. She says the hospital staff noticed how hard it was for victims with injuries to get up the courage to ask for help. That can become tougher once they leave the safety of the hospital. So while they're still here, a social worker helps them video chat with Diana Bodeen, a domestic violence hearing officer for Passaic County.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO CHAT)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Hi, Diana.
DIANA BODEEN: Hi.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Hi, Diana.
STARECHESKI: Diana Bodeen's face comes up on a screen and in about 45 minutes, the patient can get a temporary restraining order before they even leave the hospital.
BODEEN: Sometimes we've done hearings actually from the emergency room, you know, from literally somebody sitting in a bed with curtains around them.
STARECHESKI: The video is essential for patients like one Bodeen remembers who had neck injuries so severe she had to have a tracheotomy.
BODEEN: She could not talk.
STARECHESKI: So she answered questions with thumbs up, thumbs down hand signals.
BODEEN: She was so interested in communicating with us that she took her pad and started writing information to us and holding it up.
STARECHESKI: Video is useful for legal documentation too, says St. Joseph social worker Tina Miles.
TINA MILES: The judges or the hearing officer will utilize the technology to zoom in, to take a look at bruising and any injuries.
STARECHESKI: The program was the first of its kind in New Jersey when it began four years ago. Soon it'll be the first to be available 24/7. A county judge will be on-call at night and on weekends, when most victims show up at the hospital, via an iPad. That expanded service should start sometime in early 2015.
Laura Starecheski, NPR News.
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