by Colton Campbell
When the University of West Georgia Department of Health Services received a $312,000 grant, renewable for three years, from the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) last year, Associate Director Jill Hendricks called the funding “a tremendous
The department is now seeing the fruits of that gift – a Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) grant to enhance and expand services offered to students who have been affected by sexual violence.
One such outcome occurred earlier this year, when several representatives from the CJCC visited UWG’s campus for a training seminar that benefited numerous community stakeholders who serve victims of violence, including advocates, faculty members, counselors, community service agencies such as emergency shelters, school officials, medical practitioners, clergy members, law enforcement officers and state prosecutors.
“We were grateful for the opportunity to host this training on our campus to demonstrate we are committed to our partnerships with the external community,” Hendricks said. “We’ve allocated a large portion of the grant funds to provide ongoing trauma-informed trainings as well as training opportunities like this one for both our campus and our community.”
Steven Hatfield, deputy director of CJCC and UWG alumnus, also attended the seminar, along with Aisha Ford, director of the agency’s victim’s compensation division.
“When people fall victim to a crime against themselves or a close loved one, they aren’t thinking of the bills they’ll have to pay or the financial ramifications of their situation,” Hatfield said. “So they need victim advocates and professionals who can guide them through that process. Having local partners like we have here at UWG help broaden that network of trained professionals to ensure victims can get the help they need.”
Dannielle Lewis, a training and outreach coordinator in CJCC’s victim’s compensation division, was a featured speaker during the training seminar, sharing information on services and resources made available by the state to victims of crimes.
“Much like employees can receive worker’s compensation when they sustain an injury at work, victims of crimes can also receive compensation to deal with unforeseen circumstances,” Lewis said. “Whether it’s help with medications, mental health counseling or dealing with a loss of income, help is out there. Getting that information into the hands of people who are directly working with victims is huge for us.”
The VOCA grant funding provided training opportunities featuring nationally recognized speakers; the opportunity for teams to travel to internationally renowned conferences including the End Violence Against Women International Conference, the American College Health Association national conference, and the International Forensic Nursing Conference; more than $175,000 in state-of-the-art medical equipment; and funded an additional licensed professional counselor in the UWG Counseling Center to serve survivors of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, or other violent crimes.
The grant also funded the first year of the LiveSafe mobile safety application; the certification of additional sexual assault nurse examiners; and the development of informational resources to provide valuable options for crime victims.
“We are humbled by the opportunity to help our community in new and more meaningful ways by inviting powerful speakers to our campus to share vital information with the people who need it,” Hendricks said. “Our community frequently responds to students’ needs, so it’s a good feeling to be able to give back in this way.”