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Community addresses funding need for victim assault programs

BY LAUREN COFFEY | OCTOBER 31, 2012 6:30 AM

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With recent cuts to the state’s Victim of Crime Act funding, there is not much the directors can do to change the amount of funds.

That is where the community can come in to help.

“It’s definitely up to the community,” said Laurie Schipper, the executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Ask for more money. The programs are increasingly flexible and nimble.”

The Coralville Public Library overflowed with community members Tuesday evening as the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Assault held an informational meeting about the new plan to deal with funding losses and field questions from community members.

After a 10 percent cut in state funding last year, the Iowa Attorney General’s Office received a 14 percent cut from the Victims of Crime Act funding stream, The Daily Iowan has previously reported.

The Domestic Violence Intervention Program and the Rape Victim Advocacy Program decided to re-evaluate their current funding plan in June. After testing 10 different plans with the information they had, the two programs decided to adapt the Strategic Funding and Services Plan.

The plan will split the state into six regions and divide 60 percent of the funding to give a base amount to each shelter and the remaining 40 percent of the funds based on population of the service area. Currently, the programs receive $8.5 million to split up among 28 service areas.

“No matter where you live, you have services,” said Donna Phillips, the Victim Service Support Program administrator. “We believe it’s the fairest distribution of funds.”

Although officials are upset by the lack of funding, they believe with the right amount of money the plan has the ability to help.

“The plan needs a lot more money,” Schipper said. “I believe with more money the plan could work. It has great merit. If we had twice as many advocates [which are a result of funding], we would be doing an adequate job. With three times as many, we would be doing a good job.”

Many community members originally were hostile toward the plan for a variety of reasons, with one of the main issues being that the plan will not prevent future closings of service areas for domestic assault and domestic abuse victims.

Local politicians were also at the meeting to show their support.

“It’s about resource priorities in the case of the state,” said Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City. “The last two years, the program has had $2.8 million, a year before it was 3.4. At the federal level, there is a big decision on Tuesday, and you guys are trying to rearrange the deck chairs.”

Other community members focused less kon legislators and more on victims being affected by the funding cuts.

Officials urge the community to take the matter of funding into their own hands and talk to local officials.

“We’re doing the best we can,” said Janelle Melohn, the director of the Crime Victim Assistance Division. “We need more money. The important thing [the community] can do is talk to the people who control the purse strings and help them understand the need for victim services.”


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