Victim program losing funding

NEW CUMBERLAND – A program that helps victims of crime in the Northern Panhandle may need some help of its own with the loss of vital grant funding.

The Hancock Brooke Ohio Counties Victim Assistance Program Inc. recently learned a federally-funded Justice Assistance Grant in the amount of $15,000 was not renewed for the new fiscal year.

The non-profit agency uses the grant to pay for counseling for victims of crime who cannot afford it, said Hancock County victim advocate Michelle Wuyak.

“Victims need support so they may continue with their lives,” Wuyak said in a letter to Hancock County commissioners. “Currently, I have many in counseling, and they need to continue. Without funding, it’s as if we are taking away their lifeline. It’s a devastating blow to them.”

Wuyak took her plea to commissioners earlier this week.

“I hope there’s maybe something you can do to help us,” she said.

Commissioners made Wuyak’s remarks a matter of record but otherwise took no action.

“If she came back and said other counties were participating, I’m sure we’d be able to look at it further,” Commissioner Dan Greathouse said.

Wuyak said the agency has been participating in the JAG program for the last five or six years and the loss of funding could seriously reduce the amount of counseling that’s available.

“It means so much to someone who has been victimized, to have a helping hand out there,” she said. “Many of my victims have been severely traumatized. They are having a hard time meeting life’s challenges, through no fault of their own. It would be an additional crime to deny them healing.”

Wuyak said the counseling program may have to be dissolved if alternate sources of funding are not found.

The JAG program, administered by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, provides funding for local programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime prevention, drug treatment, criminal justice, and crime victim and witness assistance. In 2012, crime victim programs received about 2 percent of the JAG funding available; law enforcement programs received 70 percent.

The Victim Assistance Program was founded in 1994 and is governed by a board that includes the Brooke and Ohio County sheriffs. Each of the three counties has its own victim advocate.

For fiscal year 2012, the last year for which such information is available, the agency showed revenues totaling $48,682, according to the Form 990 it must file annually with the Internal Revenue Service. That was down from the $111,850 in revenues it showed for the previous year.

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