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Human Rights panel to hold public hearing

Will discuss Franklin County Child Advocacy Center

GREENFIELD — The town’s Human Rights Commission will hold a public hearing on Monday at 6 p.m. to discuss how it will support and help further the establishment and growth of Franklin County Child Advocacy Center.

“The center is one of the most important and exciting projects in years in our community that seeks to protect the rights and preserve the best interests of our children,” said commission Chairman Lewis Metaxas.

The center, a project of the Northwestern Children’s Advocacy Center of the district attorney’s office, helps young victims of physical or sexual assault and neglect.

Metaxas said he learned a disturbing statistic recently — in the first nine months of 2013, 111 young victims from Franklin County and Athol have received services from the center.

Since 2008, the annual number of such cases in Franklin County and Athol has averaged between 145 and 158 victims, said Metaxas.

He said part of the critical function of a child advocacy center is to refer children for follow-up treatment, if needed, and to support victims and non-offending family members through the legal system.

The center also provides education and training throughout the community about child abuse and neglect.

“The commission’s public hearing will explore further information of interest to the community regarding the Franklin County Child Advocacy Center, its recent progress, its needs and how the commission can assist in those efforts,” said Metaxas.

He said the commission would like to help in the formation of a community coalition to help further the work of the center.

“This is why the commission is devoting an entire meeting to the issue of the center and asking for the input of the public in this way,” said Metaxas.

Susan Loehn, executive director of the center, will speak at the public hearing.

All residents of Greenfield and the county are welcome to attend, speak and ask questions, said Metaxas.

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