Editorial: Domestic Violence Services Need Help

Editorial: Domestic Violence Services Need Help

The following editorial appeared in the Feb. 10 edition of the Record-Journal:

Incidences of domestic violence have escalated significantly over the past two pandemic-centric years, even as a key source of federal funding to local agencies has dwindled.

The situation has reached a crisis point, say advocates. The cry for services such as safety planning (emergency and transitional housing), counseling, crisis intervention, legal and other support has been overwhelming, according to a recent report in the Record-Journal.  

For example, Meriden-Wallingford Chrysalis Inc. has seen its service statistics surge; from nearly 15,000 services provided in the most recent fiscal year compared to about 3,600 in the one ending June 2020. Compare the recent year’s 4,000 safety planning responses (typically housing needs) to two years earlier when 650 such services were provided. Shelters have been stretched to capacity.

All 18 regional agencies in the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence have seen similar increases.  CCADV and six other statewide agencies are urging the state to help.

They cited an anticipated significant loss of funding through the federal Victims of Crime Act (known as VOCA) in an open letter to Gov. Ned Lamont in December, “at a time when the need for these critical services is increasing as a result of the pandemic.”

VOCA funding comes from fines and fees imposed for federal crimes. The funding is at an all-time low due to an issue that redirected those fines and fees to the General Treasury for the past few years, the letter said. Advocates say it will be a few years before funding is fully replenished.

Meghan Scanlon, CCADV president and chief executive, called the potential loss or delay of funds devastating for critical services and asked legislators and the state to step up to fill the gap, suggesting that federally disbursed American Rescue Plan Act dollars could help.

In Meriden, Chrysalis asked the city to assist and received $618,000 in ARPA funds, authorized by the City Council, helping the agency to maintain its current level of services over the next three years. 

Using ARPA to help support domestic violence victim services should be a high priority to the state and municipalities receiving this money, especially when some towns are using funds for less critical matters.

In Cheshire, for instance, $325,000 in ARPA funds was allocated to offset the cost of bulky waste pickup with the rationale that residents would be disposing of a large number of items due to the pandemic. The final cost ended up being $239,522, leaving around $85,000 in leftover money that awaits a purpose. Another $2 million is going to a park improvement project.

Cheshire is not unique is using ARPA funds for these kinds of items. While Meriden is supporting Chrysalis, the City Council has also approved spending $2.2 million of relief funding to upgrade basketball and tennis courts across city parks. 

It’s fair to ask, what should our priorities be? What if all 169 towns contributed a small share of their allotment to a problem that impacts every single community? Perhaps the deficit facing agencies trying to manage this surge in domestic violence could be covered or mitigated.

With this big influx of money into the state and distributed to communities, let’s get our priorities straight and address serious matters that are part of the pandemic fallout.

Resources for victims of domestic violence are available through Meriden-Wallingford Chrysalis’ 24-hour hotline. Call (203) 238-1501 or 888-774-2900 for English or 844-831-9200 for Spanish. Other resources can be found through the Connecticut Domestic Violence Resource Hub. Visit CTSafeConnect.org or call 888-774-2900 for more information.


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