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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -
Whenever you see flashing blue lights and yellow police tape, the message is clear: something violent happened there. But for one Charlotte Mecklenburg program, their focus is different: the children left behind and the impact on them.
Stacy Flaherty is the program director for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Child Development and Community Policing (CD-CP).
"You only get one of those and we're really in the business of protecting childhood," she said.
A partnership between mental health experts and specially trained CMPD officers, the program has been around for years. But Flaherty says the need has become critical over the past couple of years.
"After a busy weekend, on a Monday we could be looking at somewhere around 40 referrals for our team," she said.
The program gets about 3,000 referrals each year but has only 6 full time clinicians. As a result, they are only in half of CMPD's 13 police divisions. That means, half the county --including thousands of children aren't getting the help they need.
"It can have lifelong impact on them," said Flaherty. "They can develop post traumatic stress just like our veterans can."
Because of confidentiality policies, they can't talk specifics.
"There's so much more going on a daily business than what you see on the nightly news," she said.
But a domestic violence scene from last Thursday on Winchester Street in West Charlotte where police found a man and woman shot to death is exactly the kind of scene they would respond to.
"Together they can offer emotional support, problem solving," Flaherty said. "They can offer safety resources. There's often so much more that the two can do together than either one can ever do alone."
The program started as grassroots movement and is based on a program out of New Haven, CT.
Charlotte's Mecklenburg's program is the largest of its kind and serves more children than anywhere in the country.