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Services for sex abuse, domestic violence victims see funding cut

BY TIERRA SIMPSON | OCTOBER 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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Some of Iowa’s sexual-assault and domestic-violence programs are set to see a decrease in the amount of money they receive due to a regionalization of the victim-services fund. Now, local officials say the most recent cuts in funding could affect the quality of the resources.

Officials say in addition to last year’s 10 percent cut in state funding, this year, the Iowa Attorney General’s Office has received a 14 percent federal cut from the Victims of Crime Act funding stream, according to a press release from the Domestic Violence Intervention Program and the Rape Victim Advocacy Program.

“The reason for that cut was that the federal government decided to administer the funds differently,” said Janelle Melohn, the director of the state Crime Victim Assistance Division. “And in the past, the cost to administer the fund had been set above the cap — that’s actually the amount of money that gets issued to all the programs around the country that serve victims of crime. Last year, they decided instead to take that money and took it under the cap, which resulted in a 14 percent cut to Iowa’s fund.”

Previously, the Iowa Attorney General’s Office has tried to make up for the loss, using the money from its reserves. However, Melohn does not see this as a permanent solution.

“Unfortunately, last year, it was almost $1.1 million that we had to make up for, and it’s just not a long-term sustainable solution, because that money in our reserve funds seven other programs that our offices administer that also serve victims of crime,” she said.

In response to the lack of funds, officials started looking for a different approach with the resources they have, according to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office Proposals to Improve Crime Victim Services document. The change would expand service areas by dividing Iowa into six regions. In those regions, the office would fund one or two comprehensive domestic-violence service and advocacy program(s), one or two shelter programs, and one or two sexual-service and advocacy programs.

“Currently, there are some 28 programs in the state that deal with domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Karla Miller, the executive director of the local Rape Victim Advocacy Program.

“What will happen now is there will be many fewer agencies that’ll be separate. Everybody who’s left will be just domestic violence or sexual assault.”

This change will restructure the way in which victim services are delivered in Iowa.

“I think the most important issue of funding cuts is that there will be fewer resources for victims with domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Kristie Fortmann-Doser, the executive director of the local Domestic Violence Intervention Program.

She said she believes regionalization is an answer to responding to cuts and losses; however, people will have some losses.

“Ultimately, it’s a cut in funding, so it’s a cut in services,” she said. “We’re looking at victims having to travel farther for services or having to rely on other programs or other services in their communities to find support.”

Officials say it will be a competitive process. All the directors in the Southeast Region have met to come up with a solution.

“It’s not our choice to cut funds; it’s something that has been handed down to us,” Melohn said. “The whole restructure is based on quality of services and making sure we’re efficiently and effectively delivering services all across Iowa with the money that we have.”

DVIP provided assistance to more than 1,700 women, children, and men in 2011, according to the press release. The RVAP provided services for 640 sexual-assault victims.

Melohn hopes the agencies can offer effective services everywhere, instead of just certain parts of Iowa.

“Honestly for victims, we hope there are little to no difference to what they see in services,” she said.


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