Because fund have been cut for victim assistance grants at both the federal and state level, Rural Iowa Crisis Center in Creston might be looking at a major change in their future.
Federal funding for fiscal year 2013 will be approximately 18 percent less than it was in fiscal year 2010, and state general fund appropriations will be approximately 7 percent less in fiscal year 2013 compared to fiscal year 2010.
The Iowa Attorney General's office has proposed changes to improve crime victim services. These changes would enlarge service areas by dividing Iowa into six regions. Within those six regions, the Iowa Attorney General's office would fund one or two comprehensive domestic violence service and advocacy programs, one or two comprehensive sexual assault service and advocacy programs, and one or two emergency shelter programs.
The Rural Iowa Crisis Center falls into the southwest region of Iowa, where there are four programs including Rural Iowa Crisis Center. The other three include are in Council Bluffs, Atlantic and Adel.
"At most, there is going to be maybe three programs per region," said Vickie Hodge, executive director of Rural Iowa Crisis Center. "I don't see us as being one of those for this region. Out of the four programs in this region, we are the youngest. Essentially, you can say we are less financially stable that the others."
The funds will be awarded on a competitive basis to programs that will best provide specific victim services in a region. Hodge said as funds diminish, the application process becomes more competitive.
Hodge has been in discussion with Wendy Richter, executive director of Family Crisis Support Network in Atlantic, to discuss the possibility of a merger between the programs.
"We are taking a look at what is happening, what we can do, what our strengths and weaknesses are and how to evaluate this," said Hodge. "I'm not for sure merge is even the right term to use. But, we will make a decision before the first of the year."
Hodge added her main goal if the Atlantic program was successful in obtaining a grant, and a merge did happen, is to keep services, or a base, in Union County.
The grant application will be available for employees of the programs to view, and the application process will start after Jan. 1. Grant applications will be due by the end of February.
"One concern I have is that this is regionalization of services," she said. "And, we all know how that plays out in rural areas. It really bothers me how this could turn out. Regionalization may work well when people go to the service, but what happens when half of what you do means you have to go to them?"
Hodge added she wanted to emphasize that Rural Iowa Crisis Center would be providing services through June 30, 2013.
"We don't know what is going to happen," she said. "But I want people to know that we aren't rolling over and giving up. But, we will do what makes sense."
October is domestic violence awareness month, and for the past few years, Rural Iowa Crisis Center has partnered with a local church to host a candlelight vigil.
This year's candlelight vigil is scheduled 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Saint John's United Church of Christ, 601 S. Maple St. Union County Attorney Tim Kenyon will be the guest speaker, and the Rev. Daniel Moore will give a prayer and pastoral message. Refreshments will be served after.
"This is about mourning victims and celebrating the survivors of domestic violence," said Hodge. "We would really like people to come out for this because this could be the last one the Rural Iowa Crisis Center will do."