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Victim agencies to receive grants

Two Lawrence County agencies that assist crime victims will receive grants from the Ohio Crime Victim Compensation fund totaling more than $136,000, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.

The Criminal Justice Program in the Office of Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr., will receive $66,800 in grant funds while the Lawrence County Domestic Violence Task Force domestic violence shelter have been awarded $69,500, according to a press release.

Officials with both agencies say the annual grants, which are awarded as part of the State Victims Assistance Act and the federal Victims of Crime Act, are vital to providing local services to victims of crimes and domestic violence in Lawrence County. The grants require a 25 percent local match.

Kathy Beals, director of victim’s assistance in Collier’s office, said the grant money is used to cover personnel costs for its three victims advocates. Advocates serve as a liaison between the victim and the prosecutor, she said.

“We lead them through the criminal court proceedings, educate them and go to these court proceedings if they are not able to attend,” Beals said. She added advocates also help victims file compensation claims for uncovered medical and/or counseling bills and help them register for the VINELink service. She said in Lawrence County advocates assist victims of both felony and misdemeanor crimes.

“If there were no victim advocacy for Lawrence County, the prosecutors themselves could not contact every victim in the cases, so their voices wouldn’t be heard essentially. There are too many cases for them to actually cover,” Beals said.

Elaine Payne, director of the Lawrence County Domestic Violence Task Force, said the funds are equally important for her agency. Without the annual assistance its domestic violence shelter would “absolutely shut down,” she said. As it is, she added, the agency struggles to raise the required 25 percent local match every year.

“We’re constantly begging for community participation to keep the doors open,” Payne said, “Luckily, the city stepped up to the plate and gave us a donation and so did the county. But as far as community donations, it’s very hard to come up with a community cost match.”

“There is a need in Lawrence County for this service. That’s why we struggle to keep our doors open,” she said. “People know that domestic violence exists in our community but not a lot of people are interested in helping until its too late.”