Changes coming to crime victims services in Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Changes coming to crime victims services in Iowa

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Big changes are on the way for agencies who help domestic violence and sexual abuse victims in Iowa.

Budget cuts are forcing the Iowa Attorney General's Crime Victims Assistance Division to reorganize how those programs are funded - and who provides services.

That division will see an approximate $1 million cut in federal and state funds for victim services.

Next year, more federal funding cuts could cut an additional approximate $1 million.

So, state officials say they're being proactive to make changes necessary to keep those services going in all of Iowa's 99 counties.

"What we're really doing is reallocating our resources so we're best meeting the needs of victims, which means putting money into services instead of buildings," said CVAD Director Janelle Melohn.

Funding streams will be divided into six regions with a competitive bidding process for those who want to continue services.

Only one or two providers will get the bid for each region when it comes to providing shelters, and services for domestic and sexual abuse victims.

Organizations like Seeds of Hope will lose services in at least Grundy and Hardin Counties under the plan.

"We have to make sure we are increasing out outreach into the community. We're going to places we know victims are, doctor's offices, dentist's offices, hairdressers, where people may more freely share they're being victimized in this way so one of our parts of our plan will be to increase outreach into the community," said Terry Helinski, executive director of Seeds of Hope.

Cedar Valley Friends of the Family runs a shelter for domestic violence victims in Waverly.

It will bid to keep that open but won't bid for the other services.

"We will fundraise. We will work with whoever the sexual assault and domestic violence program is to make sure those services within our region within the state which means we'll probably do collaborative fundraising, collaborative work and all those things," said Ben Brustkern, executive director of Cedar Valley Friends of the Family.

State officials say only 11 percent of victims served last year used a shelter.

They say money will be better spent paying for more victims advocates and not on buildings.

"I believe the shelter's absolutely working for us. I think the way we provide shelter services, we make sure people that exit us are moving into a successful place that they can maintain housing and get away from the incidents," said Brustkern.

Exact details of how the plan may work still aren't known.

More meetings are scheduled around the state.

"We have to plan with what we have. We'll continue forward. This is in the best interest of the victims. We're seeing more with the resources we have and making sure all our victims are being served regardless of what crime you suffered," said Melohn.

State officials say if they were to do nothing, some agencies would be forced to close due to a lack of funding.

They say each agency will have to describe in its application for funding what it will do for each county in its region to make sure no area is under served.

Those applications will begin to be accepted after January 1.

Changes go into effect July 1.

The next meeting to discuss the plan is set for Sioux City Friday.

A meeting in Coralville is set for October 30.

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