The Domestic Violence Alternatives and Sexual Assault Center located in Marshalltown has served victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in Jasper County since 1985. However, as a result of cuts to funding and a subsequent reorganization of the Crime Victim Assistance Division of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, DVA/SAC will no longer serve Jasper County effective July 1, 2013.
Cuts totalling $1.1 million already have been applied to CVAD’s budget, with funding expected to decrease by another million dollars over the next fiscal year, DVA/SAC executive director Dotti Thompson explained during a public meeting held at the Newton Public Library on Tuesday afternoon.
As a result, the state has been divided into six regions, with the 28 programs currently in place across Iowa eventually consolidating into 12-15 programs. This, paired with an initiative to shift both focus and money more toward outreach as opposed to shelters, will help programs statewide continue to operate despite recent budget cuts.
DVA/SAC currently serves victims in Marshall, Poweshiek, Tama and Jasper counties, and will continue to have a presence in each until July 1 of next year.
Both Marshall and Tama counties have been designated a portion of the North Central region, which stretches northward to the state line. Because DVA/SAC is located in Marshalltown, its services will only be available to those within that region. Jasper and Poweshiek counties have thus been assigned to the South Central region, which reaches westward to Polk County and south to the state line.
Jasper County is one of seven counties statewide that must find a new agency to provide sexual assault and domestic violence response services to victims as a result of the newly-formed regions; Poweshiek, Sac, Calhoun, Carroll, Crawford, Hardin and Grundy counties will all face similar decisions over the next seven months.
Residents of these counties need not worry, Thompson explained, because of state guidelines that require each region to develop comprehensive programs in each county it covers before receiving funding.
“Our goal is to ensure that our victims in even the most rural areas receive the same services as those in our most populous areas,” she added.
Letters of intent from agencies looking to take over services in these counties will be due in mid-December, while formal applications will be due at the end of February. From there, a committee will review applications, approve or deny funding to each region, and hear appeals until final decisions regarding funding and each agency’s specific responsibilities are made on June 14.
As of now, what agency will take over services in Jasper County is still up in the air, however Thompson says, “we should have a pretty solid idea (of what agency will take over) when applications start rolling in.”
Overall, the reorganization of CVAD seeks to better allocate resources at hand in an equal manner to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and the aftermath of homicide. According to Thompson, only 10 to 20 percent of the clients DVA/SAC served over the last year have sought temporary refuge through the Marshalltown shelter; this is typical statewide as well.
Thus, services across the state will begin to shift toward intervention and outreach prior to victims requiring shelter. As a result, just 6-8 of Iowa’s current 20 sexual assault/domestic violence shelters will remain open, saving CVAD a significant amount of money.
“In our state, you have to have shelters,” Thompson said. “But we’re not seeing a need consistent with the number of shelters we currently operate ... (with the reorganization), we’ll begin to focus on comprehensive interventions before the need for a shelter is there.”
Despite the whirlwind of changes slated to take place over the next few months, Thompson was adamant that while DVA/SAC will be discontinuing services to Jasper and Poweshiek counties in July, they are intent on providing outreach and shelter to those counties until then.
“It’s always harder and different when agencies have to move,” she said. “But we want to make this as seamless as possible for our clients. We are committed to providing quality service to each of the counties we currently serve until July. We’re also committed to helping with the transition (to another agency).”
“We don’t know the specific plan yet,” she added, “but we want to make sure we introduce them to how Jasper County operates...we’ll do what we can to get everyone on the same page.”
For additional questions regarding the future of DVA/SAC’s services, contact Dotti Thompson at (641) 753-3513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicole Wiegand can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 422 or via email at email@example.com.