Catholic Charities to maintain domestic violence advocacy services amid community concern

NORWICH – After sustaining losses in funding to support their efforts to provide victim services earlier this year, Catholic Charities of Chenango County had previously announced that its victim services division, known as the Crime Victim Program, would possibly be coming to an end after 30 years of service to the community.

Robin Beckwith, Executive Director at Catholic Charities said, “When we initially released the news that we would be reducing, and possibly terminating all of our victim services contracts, we were overwhelmed with an outcry of community concern.”

After attending meetings with multiple community providers and hearing their concerns, Catholic Charities administrative staff went back to reviewing their contracts to see if anything could be done to save some of these valuable services.

Jeff Chesebro, Director of Operations at Catholic Charities who has been overseeing the program changes alongside Beckwith, said, “The Crime Victims Program has always been one of our more challenging programs to operate throughout the years. Even when funding was prevalent, the program was composed of multiple unique contracts and all with their own individual requirements and governing regulations.”

At one time, The Crime Victims Program was composed of more than 10 state and local contracts that comprised funding for the diverse victim services that Catholic Charities historically offered as the sole provider in Chenango County.

Although the agency was not able to maintain all its former contracts, it has found a way to maintain its contract with the Office of Children and Family Services which provides funding for the program to operate the Chenango County Multi-Disciplinary Team and Child Advocacy Center. In addition, Catholic Charities' contract with the Office of Victim Services will allow the agency to continue provision of highly demanded domestic violence advocacy services that community partners had expressed large concern over.

“After months of contract review and deliberation, we were able to find a way to maintain two of our major contracts, and do so while maintaining a fiscally viable program model,” said Chesebro.

Although the victim services programs offered by Catholic Charities have reduced in size, Beckwith remains optimistic about the future. “In anticipation of maintaining the CAC and Advocacy services we sought out new leadership for the program,” she said.

Soon after the decision was made to continue domestic violence and child advocacy services, Catholic Charities began soliciting applications from local professionals for a new Victim Services Director. The agency sought to find a mental health professional for this newly redefined position in order to maintain therapy services for victims of violence.

“We are excited to announce that Bill Jeffery, a longtime employee of the former Crime Victims Program, has accepted the offer to take on the new role as the Victim Services Director. Bill has dedicated the majority of his professional career as a mental health counselor to serving victims of crime and domestic violence,” said Beckwith.

Catholic Charities anticipates slowly redeveloping some of the crime victims programs in the future and looks forward to working with the new provider that will be contracted through the Chenango County Department of Social Services.

“We are in support of the Department of Social Service’s decision to reassign the DV non-residential contract to an alternate provider,” Beckwith added. “As an agency that promotes client choice and trauma informed practices in all of our programs, we feel that in conjunction with our decision to maintain DV advocacy services, having another provider for victims will enhance the services that are being provided throughout the county.”

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