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Coffee County CAC to ensure Tullahoma City plans for the future include children’s wellbeing

On July 6, Joyce Prusak, executive director of Coffee County Children’s Advocacy Center, attended the first Public Planning Meeting, part of the Think Tullahoma 2040: Take-off to Tomorrow project. The project aims to update the City’s Comprehensive Plan to guide future developments over the next 20 years. A Comprehensive Plan is a visionary document, guiding decisions in economic development, housing, transportation, land use and other areas. Coffee County CAC is looking forward to engaging with Tullahoma City leaders to ensure that preparation for the future includes planning for children’s safety and health. Planning for the future must involve developments and activities focusing on children’s wellbeing.

With economic development being an investment in growing the economy and enhancing the prosperity and quality of life for all residents, it’s essential for Tullahoma City to invest in child abuse prevention. Child abuse prevention will enhance Tullahoma’s economic development and community development, making Tullahoma a better place to live and work.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total lifetime estimated financial costs associated with one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect) is approximately $124 billion. The lifetime cost for each victim of child maltreatment who lived was about $210,000, which is more than other costly health conditions. The costs of each death due to child maltreatment are even higher.

In Coffee County, in 2020, there were: 347 referrals received for services related to severe child abuse; 4 investigations involving the death of a child; 244 investigations involving sexual abuse allegations; 333 total severe child abuse investigations. If we apply the CDC numbers, the cost for the 347 children victims of child abuse in 2020 would translate into nearly $73 million.

Child abuse crosses all socioeconomic and educational levels, religions, and ethnic and cultural groups. Studies show that 14% of all men in prison and 36% of women in prison in USA were abused as children. Children who experience child abuse are nine times more likely to become involved in criminal activity. The savings related to reducing child abuse in Tullahoma will be millions of dollars. If Tullahoma City makes efforts to decrease the number of abused children, the City will decrease the number of people in jail. In Coffee County, the cost for housing an inmate in jail per day is about $40. The annual cost for housing an inmate is $15,000. The number of inmates has increased over the years. Coffee County increased jail capacity from about 270 to 400 inmates in 2015, and the new jail cost Coffee County taxpayers $22 million.

Most recent referrals have come from Tullahoma; Tullahoma has not invested in child abuse prevention

Most of the recent referrals have come from Tullahoma. If we compare the referrals from the county, Manchester and Tullahoma City, most referrals we have received recently are from Tullahoma. Just this past month, there were 32 referrals in Coffee County, with 12 children being 6 years of age or younger. Thirteen of the children were from Tullahoma, 10 from Manchester, and nine from the county. Since the center started operating in 2005, the center has had 1,251 cases from Tullahoma, out of total 4,004. Yet, Tullahoma City does not support the center financially. Every year, the county and Manchester City provide funds for child abuse prevention. Tullahoma City has not supported the center financially for 15 years. Coffee County CAC urges Tullahoma City to make child abuse prevention a priority for Tullahoma City. Tullahoma City can do that by providing funds to the center like Manchester City and Coffee County do. Coffee County CAC also provides free training. We urge Tullahoma City to encourage city employees and community members to learn about child abuse, which will help prevent it. The community can prevent child abuse together. As they plan for future development, we are asking Tullahoma City leaders to join us and help us end child abuse.

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