Jon Jordan, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- It's a problem that continues to rank Oklahoma as one of the worst states in the nation. Domestic violence experts now believe they have a tool to prevent the abuse before it turns deadly.

Domestic violence has turned into a serious health care issue with victims filling up emergency rooms every day and, as a result, costing Americans hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

Just recently an ongoing domestic fight ended in tragedy in Midwest City when 29-year-old Patrick Ball shot and killed the mother of his 1-year-old daughter before turning the gun on himself.

Dr. Janet Wilson of OU's College of Nursing said what happened to that mother is the end result for dozens of domestic violence victims every year in Oklahoma. That's why she worked with several others to come up with an 11 item questionnaire.

"[An 11 item questionnaire] that asks, at the scene of a domestic violence incident, how dangerous will this be and what are the chances, probabilities, that somebody will die in this incident?, said Wilson. "So, this could save lives."

The questions are asked by first responders.

"Depending on how they answer the questions it can trigger our protocol and we will contact our domestic hotline, our 1-800 hotline that has been set up for us," Oklahoma City Police Lt. Vashina Butler said.

It may seem like a simple idea but to survivors of domestic violence the questionnaire is a life-saving tool.

"I've read over the 11 questions and I answered 'yes' to nine out of the 11 questions," domestic violence survivor Shelly Collins said.

Collins was in a relationship lasting more than a decade before she was shot multiple times and left for dead. She said the questionnaire could have prevented her incident and what happened in Midwest City.

"If they had had this tool it would have helped, I believe, for me to know how dangerous things were beforehand, before I was actually shot," Collins said.

Right now the questionnaire is still part of an ongoing study, so while those like Wilson said the questionnaire is effective, they are still collecting information to prove just how effective it really is.

Currently, Oklahoma ranks 15th in the nation in the number of women murdered by men. Researchers said many of those stem from incidents of domestic violence.