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D/SAOC confronts funding reversals for 2013

FD-based agency to provide shelter for 20-county area

August 23, 2012
By BRANDON L. SUMMERS, , Messenger News

A funding crisis in Iowa will impact the Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center in 2013.

"We're going to look totally different from how we look now," Connie Harris, D/SAOC executive director, said Thursday.

According to Harris, the crime victims assistance division of the Iowa attorney general's office is developing a strategic plan not just for the Fort Dodge program, but all victim services programs in Iowa.

"The reason for that is funding," Harris said. "There's a funding crisis in the state. It's not necessarily a D/SAOC funding crisis, per se, our program alone, but the entire state, where we receive 60 percent of our funding from, is reorganizing based on the fact that money is no longer available like it used to be."

In response to the funding crisis, the division's directors have decided "the best way to handle serving victims in Iowa is to close the programs that are under trouble by next year," Harris said.

It also means changes for D/SAOC. A new region is being designated for D/SAOC through the strategic service and funding plan they're developing.

Fact Box

New D/SAOC 20-county region

Counties under the new D/SAOC region include Kossuth, Winnebago, Worth, Mitchell, Hancock, Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Humboldt, Wright, Franklin, Butler, Webster, Hamilton, Hardin, Grundy, Boone, Story, Marshall, and Tama.

D/SAOC currently serves eight counties. Starting July 1, 2013, D/SAOC will no longer serve Calhoun, Pocahontas and Carroll counties, but will expand to serve a region of 20 counties.

"Fort Dodge will remain as a shelter for our region, the 20 counties," she said. "We will not be doing outreach services after the first of July. We'll only be providing shelter services."

The plan, though not "carved in stone," Harris said, is for other programs to provide outreach services.

D/SAOC, meanwhile, is preparing now to become a shelter for a 20-county region.

"We are working right now to remodel and increase capacity, get a new kitchen in. We just put a new roof on," she said. "We are working very hard to be ready."

According to Harris, while money is a problem, it's no more of a problem for them than it is for the other 27 programs in the state.

"We never have enough money," she said. "What's happening to us is typical of what's going on with DHS, mental health services, all the social service programs."

Already, D/SAOC is preparing for the statewide reorganization.

"We are meeting every two weeks to develop a new piece of the plan," Harris said. "We are committed in our region to providing the best care that we possibly can."

Harris said the initial talks on reorganizing were "sad and scary," but D/SAOC is "going to make it work."

"It's not a plan we would have chosen. It's not a plan that our grant administrators would have chosen. It's not something anyone ever wanted to have to do. But we have to reorganize because the money's not there anymore," she said.

She added, "We don't have a choice. If we drag our feet we're going to miss somebody. We have to be prepared."

Harris said she lamented that D/SAOC will no longer provide outreach services.

"This program has operated with the services we have now for at last 15 years," she said. "We're going to miss it horribly. We won't be doing any prevention work."

With only three to four programs in the region surviving the transition, each program had to commit to one type of service, Harris said.

"We felt our strength was as a shelter," she said. "We believe in our shelter, we believe in our philosophy, so we basically stepped up and said we'll do the shelter."

Harris said D/SAOC will meet the challenge of serving 20 counties by offering programming at the shelter, and contingencies such as wraparound services, shelter alternatives and possibly an emergency fund.

"We're just in the planning stage, but we're not dragging our feet," she said. "It is going to happen and if we're not prepared, shame on us. Because we're going to be the only shelter in 20 counties. So we'll be ready."

D/SAOC needs volunteers to paint and clean as they convert office space to bedrooms and install a new kitchen ahead of the transition. To volunteer, contact D/SAOC at 955-2273.



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