ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Many domestic violence situations start small and then escalate, and an agency new to the Rockford area is there to make sure things do not go that far.

“What we do is provide a lot of advocacy services for youth and families,” said Emily Clutter, program manager at the National Youth Advocate Program. “So, really anything the family needs to be stable.”

The NYAP, 7479 Walton St., has only been in Rockford for a few months, but it is already having an impact.

“We provide housing advocacy services, mental health services, educational advocacy services,” Clutter said.

NYAP has operated in Illinois since 1997. This is the fourth office in the state. Clutter said that the group’s goal is to close the gap for people who need help.

“The gap meaning, some individuals seek services but they’re unable to get into services until 3 months later,” Clutter said. “We are actually able to take those individuals in right away and provide that kind of short term stability in order to make sure that their…they’re stable long-term.”

The group has a mobile crisis response team that can respond to a domestic violence situation before it gets out of control.

“So, we can respond to individuals who are experiencing domestic violence, and we can remove them from the situation as well and connect them to resources within our community,” Clutter said.

Those crisis calls sometimes come right into NYAP’s direct line. The agency also gets referrals from the national “988 Lifeline.” Clutter said that she hopes to spread the message that it is okay to ask for help.

Her motivation is personal.

“I felt like there was such a stigma around mental health, and I guess I struggled with anxiety and depression as a kid,” Clutter said. “And mental health, like, I just wanted to spread awareness and make youth know that you’re not alone and that someone is here to support you…”

NYAP has in-house therapists and an engagement specialist who follows up with people outside of the office.

“One really cool thing about NYAP is we believe that the change happens in the community,” Clutter said. “So, if we’re able to meet people where they’re at rather than expect them to come to us, we feel that’s the best way to make change.”

The agency’s services are free, and the group is funded by grants. Clutter said that the group is also looking for volunteers.

If you are a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, visit our Stateline Strong page for resources.