MIAMI COUNTY — A huge leap in federal funds means Christmas came early for the state of Ohio’s victim services agencies, including three of Miami County agencies.
On Wednesday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that he is awarding more than $51 million to 307 crime victim service providers across Ohio as part of the newly established “Ohio Attorney General’s Expanding Services and Empowering Victims Initiative.”
The funds are being awarded as the result of a marked increase in Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice for 2015-2016. In fiscal year 2014-2015, Ohio received $15,993,857 in VOCA funding, as opposed to this fiscal year’s award of $69,888,068. The fund is financed by federal settlements, fines, and fees.
Each of Miami County’s agencies received more than double the grant funding from the previous year.
CASA/GAL of Miami County’s Executive Director Jennifer Saunders said she cried tears of joy when she read the award announcement on Wednesday afternoon.
According to the Attorney General’s website, Miami County agencies will be awarded approximately $508,610 dollars in funds: CASA/GAL of Miami County Inc. $101,739.97; Family Abuse Shelter of Miami County Inc., $168,102; and Miami County Prosecutor’s Office Victim Witness Program $238,769.
In comparison, the three Miami County agencies were awarded approximately $203,666 in 2014 grant allocations, according to the Attorney General’s office.
In 2014-2015, grant funds to CASA/GAL of Miami County Inc. were $25,908, Family Abuse Shelter $72,220, and Miami County Victim Witness, $105,538.
“We are so excited,” Saunders said Thursday. Saunders said initial plans for the increase in funds include adding a program coordinator. Funds will also be used to train the agency’s 40 CASA/GAL advocates.
“We are just so overwhelmed right now,” Saunders said. “Unfortunately, our caseload is increasing and now we are just really excited to update our computer systems and little things we’ve had to do without over the years.”
Saunders said 40 CASA/GAL advocates served more than 117 children in 2013, 128 children in 2014. So far this year, 107 children have received court services from the agency.
“Our 40 volunteers are the one constant during the life of their case,” Saunders said, noting some cases can remain open for several years. CASA/GAL currently is accepting new volunteers for their fall training session. For more information, visit www.miamicountycasa.org.
A new security system and restoring a few positions is on the wish list for the Family Abuse Shelter located in Troy.
Barb Holman, executive director, said the additional funding will be used to buy a $40,000 security system with cameras to protect staff and the more than 750 women and children the agency serves each year.
“This is really going to allow us to do things we’ve been wanting to do — and do them well,” Holman said. “We’ve been dreaming about a few things for quite some time. We are just excited and relieved.”
Other plans include program expansions and adding to the staff. Holman said a child advocate and program coordinator were once part of the program which had to be eliminated due to years of budget cuts. With the additional funding, Holman hopes to add those positions back to the shelter and provide additional services for the approximately 120 women who seek shelter from domestic violence incidents.
Attorney General DeWine created the “Ohio Attorney General’s Expanding Services and Empowering Victims Initiative” to determine how the funds could best be spent to serve victims of crime in Ohio.
Of the $51 million in grants announced today, an estimated $15 million will go toward providing services to domestic violence victims, nearly $10 million will go to prosecutor-based programs, and more than $9 million will go toward serving victims of sexual assault. Additional funds will assist agencies that provide services to at-risk youth and human trafficking victims, court appointed special advocates, and child advocacy centers.
Additional grant recipients will be announced in the future.
“No matter where you live in this state, we want victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes to have access to the essential services needed to report crimes, seek justice, and recover,” said Attorney General DeWine. “Through this initiative, we will help crime victim service agencies throughout the state enhance the essential services they already provide to crime victims in Ohio, while also funding brand new programs that will help empower survivors to overcome their victimization.”
Reach Melanie Yingst at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews