By SARAH BROWN
CNA staff reporter
Rural Iowa Crisis Center (RICC) is closing its doors.
According to information provided by the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Iowa’s Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division (CVAD) called for a reallocation of resources in an effort to address state and federal budget cuts.
RICC and its 24-hour hotline will remain open until all victims are referred and receiving services by new agencies, with a target date of Aug 1.
The restructure will now distribute services in six multi-county service areas.
According to a plan issued by the CVAD, this “modernized” approach will move away from the previous community-based model of service delivery in an effort to make better use of funding by decreasing administrative costs and streamlining services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Impact on Southwest Iowa
According to Rural Iowa Crisis Center Executive Director Vicki Hodge, RICC has begun to transition its 24-hour emergency hotline to the Crisis Intervention and Advocacy Center in Adel, which has been taking calls on weekends from victims in Adams, Taylor Ringgold and Union counties as of June 7.
By July 31, all comprehensive domestic violence and sexual assault services will be performed by the agency in Adel, while shelter services will be provided by Catholic Charities Phoenix House in Council Bluffs, which will serve a 19-county region.
“The state is taking a new approach, which I think is rather exciting,” said Hodge. “People in shelter have distinct needs.”
Hodge said one of the biggest needs is rapid rehousing and getting victims into stable, affordable and sustainable housing.
“We know affordable and sustainable housing is a barrier to leaving a domestic violence relationship,” said Hodge. “There are many, but that is one of them.”
Despite her interest in this new approach, Hodge questions the access to emergency shelter for local residents.
“How to provide emergency shelter for an entire 19-county region when your shelter in Council Bluffs is often full because of the Omaha metro area, as well?” asked Hodge. “They are working on that, but shelter is basically going to be safety-needs based.”
Hodge said this is a problem because it is impossible to determine the “lethality” of a situation.
“What do you do when, in Creston, at 2 o’clock in the morning , a victim needs shelter and we are in the middle of a snow storm?” asked Hodge. “What do you do if there’s no space in that shelter?”
Creston Police Chief Paul Ver Meer said the restructuring of services will impact victims more than anything else.
“Right now, we have the ability to call a counselor to come up,” said Ver Meer. “For emergency shelter, we used to have an agency in town that handled that. Now, I have no idea. I’ll put them up myself if I have to.”
Ver Meer said he is unsure how delievery of services will be enhanced, but he will make sure victims come first.
Hodge said the staff at RICC are in the process of writing transitional grants, which will help fund additional staff for the Council Bluffs and Adel agencies to better serve this region. Each of those two agencies acquiring clients from Southwest Iowa are looking to hire three advocates each.
“This is all happening so quickly,” said Hodge. “The goal is to provide seamless and smooth transition for victims.”
Additionally, services provided by the Crisis Intervention and Advocacy Center in Adel will include:
• Case management services
• Community education
• 24-hour response crisis intervention
• Emergency and long-term advocacy for victims in the areas of court, legal, housing, economic, medical and personal advocacy
• Programs for sexual abuse and assault survivors across their lifespan
• Outreach for friends and family
• Training for allied professionals
• Trauma-specific and informed counseling
• Volunteer program
Reason for restructure
Victim services have been funded by a combination of federal, state and local funds.
Over the previous 10 years, federal funds have made up 50 to 60 percent of of all victim services in Iowa, which have been drastically reduced as a result of across the board federal budget cuts.
According to the Iowa Attorney General’s Crime Victims Assistance Division (CVAD), approximately $1 million was cut in fiscal year 2013 and further cuts are predicted for fiscal year 2014.
CVAD claims the redistribution of funds because of restructuring will ensure all victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse will have access to such services.
The Crime Victim Assistance Division of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office’s “Strategic Funding and Services Plan for Iowa Domestic Abuse and Sexual Abuse Services” plan provides additional information regarding the state restructuring.
To obtain a copy of the plan, contact the Crime Victim Assistance Division at (515) 281-5044.