EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- Despite major volunteer support, the Lane County District Attorney's Office says crucial help for some services provided to crime victims will take a blow with the county's proposed budget cuts.
According to the Lane County District Attorney's Office, the Victim Services program works to uphold constitutional and statutory rights for the victims of crimes.
In 2011 alone, Lane County's Victim Services program worked with more than 3,700 people who were either seeking protective orders or were victims of crimes.
With the latest FY 2012-13 budget beginning July 1st, 2012, the Victim Services program will lose funding for a crucial position which will likely have a big domino effect.
The DA's Office is now cutting one full-time victim advocate, which represents a 20% reduction in staffing for the program.
Because of the job cut, Victim Services will have to eliminate its "Protective Order Clinic." The clinic works with victims, offering free help in filing petitions for restraining orders, stalking orders and more.
Without the clinic, victims will have to file the paperwork related to that without help provided by the DA's Office. In 2011, Victim Services assisted in more than 1,600 protective order petitions.
Despite more than 5,000 volunteer hours being provided to the Victim Services program, the DA's Office says it cannot continue the program's current level of service with the budget cuts that the DA's Office is facing.
“The thing is that at some point you can't do the whole operation with volunteers, you do have to have people to supervise and train volunteers and there's just some work that has to be done by professionals,” says Alex Gardner, Lane County's District Attorney.
The loss of an advocate also means a re priority of the cases the office works. The four remaining victim services advocates will share about 2,000 cases total. Advocates help victims through court proceedings, collect restitution, refer victims to other community agencies and more.
"That's one of the more frustrating things of all of this, is you get a system that's among the most efficient and cost effective in the state where we've optimized all of these teams and we've finally got them functioning, even though they're grossly understaffed, and then we're going to lose 25% of our general fund budget, and that's it,” says Gardner.
Another cut in the victims real for the Lane County DA's Office is the “KIDS First” program. Specialists in the program interviewed about 700 kids in child abuse cases last year. It is now being forced to reduce its full-time program director position to a part time position. However, the DA's Office says it is still looking for other community partners to help fund the position at this point.