Contact: Janine Kava, Press Office
New York State Crime Victims Board/Division of Criminal Justice Services
(518) 457-8906 or (518) 275-5508 – cell
janine.kava@dcjs.ny.gov

For immediate release: Monday, April 19, 2010

Albany non-profit enhances services to crime victims

In Our Own Voices receives first-ever grant from state Crime Victims Board to assist gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals who are victims of crime

In Our Own Voices, an Albany-based organization that assists the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of color community throughout the greater Capital Region, now provides advocacy services and outreach assistance to LGBT individuals who have been victims of crimes.

The New York State Crime Victims Board (CVB) has awarded a three-year grant totaling $186,742 to the organization, allowing it to hire a crime victims’ advocate and retain an outreach specialist to assist individuals in Albany, Montgomery and Schenectady counties.

“The Crime Victims Board is proud to provide In Our Own Voices with additional resources so it can assist victims in the aftermath of crime,” CVB Chairwoman Tina M. Stanford said. “The criminal justice system in New York State has made great strides to address victims’ rights. The assistance and advocacy services provided by In Our Own Voices and victims’ assistance programs throughout the state go a long way toward ensuring that all victims are treated with fairness, dignity and respect.”

Chairwoman Stanford, along with Amy Barasch, executive director of the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, today visited In Our Own Voices, and marked Crime Victims’ Rights Week in New York State, which has been designated as the week of April 18 through 24 by Governor David A. Paterson.

Recognized annually in April across the country since 1981, Crime Victims’ Rights Week calls attention to the life-changing impact crime has on victims and their loved ones, to highlight services available to assist crime victims and to reinforce the message that victims’ voices need to be heard throughout the criminal justice process.

In Our Own Voices is one of 10 non-profits across the state that is sharing in nearly $3 million over the next three years to provide crime victim advocacy services. The grants were made possible through approximately $1.79 million in funding from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act coupled with existing funding available to the Crime Victims Board through the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). Under VOCA, fees, fines and surcharges paid by individuals convicted of federal crimes are to be used to fund victim assistance programs and crime victims’ compensation.

“The Crime Victims Board first-time grant enables our organization to render LGBT affirming and culturally competent services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes in an effort to making those individuals life whole again,” said Tandra LaGrone, executive director of In Our Own Voices (IOOV). “It also allows In Our Own Voices to address the barriers that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals may face in accessing victim services. It is a vital component of IOOV’s existing services under our Capital Region Anti-Violence Project.”

In Our Own Voices has assisted more than a dozen crime victims since the crime victims’ advocate was hired in December. The advocate assists LGBT victims of crime in navigating through the criminal justice system, including helping them file police reports, attending scheduled court appearances and seeking civil orders of protection in Family Court under the state’s Expanded Access to Family Court Law.

Prior to the enactment of that law  in July 2008, intimate partners – including dating couples, same-sex couples and teen-age couples – had to pursue orders of protection through criminal cases.  From July 28, 2008 through Dec. 31, 2009, 484 same sex individuals sought assistance in Family Courts across the state.

The advocate also works to promote awareness of the need for cultural competency and sensitivity with law enforcement personnel, assists victims with completing and filing compensation applications through the Crime Victims Board, and helps ensure victims’ basic needs (food, clothing and shelter) are met.

The Crime Victims Board also provided first-time grants to eight other organizations across the state:

  • The Legal Aid Society of Rochester (Monroe County): $326,260 to retain two attorneys to assist domestic violence victims with obtaining orders of protection from Family Courts in Orleans and Monroe counties.
  • Staten Island Legal Services (Richmond County): $322,554 to continue funding a social worker position to assist domestic violence victims.
  • Columbia Memorial Hospital (Columbia County): $265,416 to fund a victims’ advocate and part-time mental health therapist at the Dr. Stephen and Suzanne Menkes Child Advocacy programs, which serves children who are victims of physical and/or sexual abuse in Columbia and Greene counties.
  • The Southern Tier Health Care System (Cattaraugus County): $251,953 to fund two family case coordinators/advocates at the Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center, which serves children who are victims of physical and/or sexual abuse in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.
  • Wyckoff Heights Medical Center (Kings/Queens counties): $192,678 to retain a social worker and hire a case coordinator so that the center’s rape crisis services can be expanded to serve domestic violence victims.
  • The Chautauqua County Child Advocacy Program: $190,794 to fund an advocate/mental health counselor for the center, which services children who are victims of physical and/or sexual abuse in Chautauqua County.
  • Child and Family Services Haven House (Erie County): $163,294 to continue funding two part-time domestic violence victim advocates, one for the Erie County Integrated Domestic Violence Court and the other for the Erie County Felony Domestic Violence Court.
  • Mechanicville Area Community Services (Saratoga County): $104,364 to convert a part-time victims’ advocate position full time.

In addition, Equinox of Albany, which has been funded by the Crime Victims Board since 1998, also received Recovery Act funding in conjunction with traditional VOCA funds.  The three-year, $818,476 grant to Equinox will fund counselor, advocate and case management positions.

Recovery Act funds will pay for the first two years of the grants to those 10 organizations, with the third year funded through VOCA. All grants were awarded competitively and were designed to help organizations either retain existing jobs or create new ones, and enhance services. The board also made it a priority to support programs in areas of the state that have been under served.

In addition to these 10 programs, the board will provide another $95.8 million in VOCA funds over the next three years to fund a network of 179 victims’ assistance programs across the state.

The five-member board has offices in Albany, Brooklyn and Buffalo; visit www.ovs.ny.gov for more information.