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Concerns about Victim Services Plan

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A plan to regionalize victim services in Iowa is generating plenty of discussion.

The plan comes from the Crime Victims Assistance Division of the Office of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.

That division is charged with collecting and distributing state and federal dollars to programs serving victims of domestic and sexual abuse.

Director Janelle Melohn says less money has come in to her office over the last decade.  She says the result has been the closure of 11 victim services agencies.

Others, like Keokuk’s Tri-State Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Abuse, have had to cut back on services to make up for the reductions in funding.

Melohn says it appears the worst is yet to come as her division is anticipating up to $2-million in cuts over the next two fiscal years.  She says the cuts are connected to sequestration and the failure of Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women act.

In response, the CVAD developed the regionalization plan, which divides Iowa into six, multi-county regions.  Lee and Des Moines Counties would be in the southeast section.

Melohn and her colleagues are traveling the state to gather input on the plan, which is scheduled to take effect in July.

More than 50 people attended a nearly two hour public hearing in Burlington Tuesday afternoon.

The questions included what factors would be used to divide the money, will all of the services be shifted to larger cities, why should services have to compete with each other, and whether fundraising could prevent the regionalization.

Others in attendance used their time to tout services offered in locations like Burlington and Keokuk and urged the group to keep them open.

Melohn says the contracts will be awarded on a competitive basis, keeping the process even for rural and urban organizations.  She says local agencies could also subcontract with a particular contract recipient.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.