By CAROLINE MURRAY
The State Office of Victim Services has administered more than $300,000 in grant money to non-for-profit organizations and law enforcement agencies across Fulton and Montgomery counties to help fund their programs, which provide services to crime victims.
That includes the Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery counties, Family Counseling Center of Fulton County and the Fulton County District Attorney's Office and additional funds to five other agencies in the Mohawk Valley.
The grant is part of a larger initiative, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday will aid 179 community-based organizations, hospitals, law enforcement and government agencies across the state with nearly $36.2 million in state funding.
"When someone is the victim of a crime, they should have fast and easy access to services that help them recover," Cuomo said. "New York must remain a leader in providing support services to crime victims, and this funding will help us meet that goal by ensuring that there are programs available in every corner of the state."
According to a press release, when applying for funding, providers were asked to identify services that responded to the immediate needs of victims in the aftermath of crime and addressed gaps in services. These grants will fund personnel, such as crime victims' advocates who help men, women, children and their families apply for financial compensation from the state office.
The Office of Victim Services funding comes entirely from the fines, mandatory surcharges and crime victim assistance fees paid by offenders.
The release states each organization or agency will enter a three-year contract with the department and the grant money covers the first year of the contracts.
The department expects approximately the same amount of federal and state funding will be available annually for the duration of the contracts.
The Family Counseling Center of Fulton County received $39, 826 to serve its domestic violence victim programs.
Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties received $201,523.
Community educator and assistant program director Ginger Cato said the grant will go toward the salaries of their legal advocates.
Currently, there are six advocates between both counties, one who focuses on innocent crime victims and the other five work with victims of domestic violence.
Cato said the aid is less than previous years, but added no one is at risk of losing their job as a result. She said the legal advocates would not be able to provide their services without the money.
"It was a sizable grant, they are one of our major funders," Cato said.
Catholic Charities of Montgomery and Fulton Counties assists both domestic crime victims and innocent crime victims by offering a safe house and legal advocacy at all criminal courts, the district attorneys office and local law enforcement agencies.
Cato said the Montgomery County District Attorney's office currently does not have a crime victims legal advocate program.
The legal advocates also work with the department of victim services to recuperate money victims of crime may have such as any time off of work, medical and legal expenses.
"The state compensates for the money lost," Cato said.
Fulton County District Attorney Louise K. Sira said the money will help fund the department's Crime Victim Assistance Program.
She said the program started in 1992. Currently, there are two crime victim advocates that run the program and the $73, 015 received will go toward their salaries.
"The money is solely for the personnel costs associated through the crime victims," Sira said.
She said the crime victim advocates act as a liaison between the victim and the prosecutor handling their case. Sira said the advocates make sure the victims are notified about any court appearances and plea negotiations, needs such as restitution or orders of protection and also provide community awareness and put on educational events.
"We are very grateful to provide services to crime victims of Fulton county, and we look forward to another successful three years," Sira said.