Kentucky State Police is launching a new program that will help crime victims.
Numerous government officials, including Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, touted Thursday the upcoming program, set to be implemented by October.
The program, called Victim Advocate Support Services, hires one victim advocate for each KSP post. The victim advocates administer care to crime victims or those involved in traumatic events, connecting them with resources, such as mental health services, crisis intervention or legal support. The victim advocates also serve as liaisons between police and victims, helping victims navigate the justice system while allowing detectives to focus more on case details.
“We’re really excited about this. We think it’s going to be a great program,” said Commissioner Rick Sanders at KSP’s Elizabethtown post.
Kentucky is one of the first states to implement the program on a statewide level. Delaware implemented the program in 1988. Kentucky’s program is paid for by a $2.5 million Department of Justice Victim of Crime Advocacy grant program and by $632,000 from state police. The grant money also provides vehicles for each advocate and a program director and allows staff to attend training in trauma-centered care, compassion fatigue and victim advocacy. The victim advocates also will work with community-based agencies to develop a resource guide for each post’s service area.
“Good things are going to come from this,” Bevin said. “We’re going to serve justice and we’re going to serve our victims in this state and their families and those that are left behind.”
When asked about the program’s fate after the grant money runs out, Bevin said the focus should be on the present.
“For crying out loud, let’s focus on what we’re doing here and not worrying about what’s going to happen 18 months from now,” he said. “We’re going to make this work. We’re going to justify it and it will be easy for us to make this a part of a regular biennial budget because the justification will be obvious.”
One victim advocate, Shonna Sheckles, is skeptical about the program.
“I don’t know what the actual benefit will be because we already have shelter programs and victim advocates based in the civil and criminal (courts),” said Sheckles, a victim advocate for SpringHaven Domestic Violence program, which offers support for victims of domestic violence. “One phrase that the governor said that disturbs me is that victims are basically not getting the services that they need. And that’s not true.”
As part of her responsibilities, Sheckles said she goes to court with victims, helps them complete emergency protective orders, calls the police on their behalf and arranges their transportation to court.
Sheckles also questioned Bevin for reallocating state money help pay for the program.
“How come that money can’t go to agencies that are already established that have been helping victims?” she asked.