Our view: Advocates committed to moving forward
Renee Campbell, publisher
Jim Patterson, editor
Andy Bockelman, assistant editor
Kaitlyn Marchbanks, community representative
Charlynne Wondra, community representative
The following information was compiled by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence for the state of Colorado.
- In 2014, 16,700 people reported one or more domestic violence crimes to Colorado law enforcement.
- 25 Coloradans were killed by former or current intimate partners in 2014.
- In 2014, 1,018 people in Colorado were abducted by current or former intimate partners.
- A 2014 survey of 78 percent of Colorado domestic violence programs found that, on the day of the survey, participating programs reported serving 904 victims/survivors; 163 were turned away due to lack of resources.
These are troubling statistics, and the stark picture they paint of one of society’s darkest corners is much of the reason we were so concerned last week to learn that Advocates Crisis Support Services — a local nonprofit group that works to assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes — has lost a federal grant that provided nearly two-thirds of the organization’s funding.
Losing the grant funding came as one more blow to an organization that was already struggling to rebuild credibility in the wake of an embezzlement case that rocked the nonprofit several years ago. This, followed by a rapid succession of executive directors — four in the past year, alone — had already mired the crisis support group in a crisis of its own, and loss of the grant funds — which, according to current Executive Director Chuck Grobe, were used to fund an investigator position — will seriously impede the organizations agility to help those who need help the most.
“It’s a huge blow, as far as victim’s services,” said Craig Police Department Interim Commander Bill Leonard in a recent interview. “Just having that voice for victims … 90 percent of (former investigator Travis Young’s) time was spent on domestic violence and sex assault cases, so it’s a huge loss for our community.”
Craig City Council, faced with daunting budgetary problems of its own, had initially cut the position from the police department budget in June, but because the investigator’s salary and benefits were fully grant-funded via Advocates, the move created no actual cost savings for the city, Grobe said.
Complicating the situation, the police department is now operating with four fewer staff members than it had at the beginning of August, meaning that, without the dedicated investigator, many of these cases — and it takes no more than a perusal of the Craig Press’s daily police blotter to appreciate how many — may go uninvestigated.
In short, Advocates was already understaffed, underfunded and overwhelmed, and loss of the federal grant will undoubtedly further hinder its ability to deliver the vital services it provides to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes.
There is no doubt Advocates has made mistakes in the past, and those mistakes are part of what led to the organizations current struggles. But the larger issue is the well being of our city and its residents. We need this position, and, moreover, we need Advocates. What are we to say when a domestic violence incident — an incident that might have been mitigated — turns deadly because a victim was turned away due to lack of resources?
Fortunately, however, in the midst of Advocates’ current troubles, we see reason for hope.
Grobe — a former Moffat County commissioner who took the reins of Advocates six months ago — says he is committed to rebuilding the organization and continuing its vital work.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Grobe said on Wednesday. “I’m committed to saving this organization.”
And already, Grobe’s actions are validating his words.
He is actively pursuing other funding sources and intends specifically to seek restoration of the federal grant Advocates recently lost.
“We’ll reapply for the grant, but we won’t be able to do that for some time,” Grobe said. “The main thing now is to get through the end of the year.”
In the interim, Grobe said, the organization is actively seeking more volunteers to bolster its staff of three paid employees and five volunteer advocates.
Volunteers must complete an intensive training protocol, including 40 hours of online instruction, followed by a period of “shadowing” an experienced advocate.
He invited anyone interested in volunteering to call Advocates at 970-824-9709.
Asked what else the community can do to help, Grobe’s answer was simple, yet poignant.
“If the community can pray for us, help us in whatever way it can,” he said. “When they see us doing an outreach, get involved with it.”
And that’s really the most important piece of any community endeavor — involvement.
Grant funding comes and goes; the economy twists and turns like an October wind. But amid the most tumultuous times and through the darkest hours, the one constant — the one thing that serves as a steady undergirding for the things that really make a difference — is an involved and engaged citizenry, and we definitely have that here in Craig.
We’re confident Advocates will emerge from its current difficulties stronger than ever, and, as for us, we intend to support it as it makes that journey.
We hope you will, too.