Families and individuals seeking assistance in San Juan County with child abuse and other criminal matters may soon find some relief after the Grand County Council approved the creation of a new position within the Children’s Justice Center on Tuesday, May 1.
The new position of victim coordinator for San Juan County, operating out of the San Juan County Attorney’s Office, will provide assistance to victims of crimes that are prosecuted by the San Juan County Attorney.
The position will serve clients mainly in the Blanding and Montezuma Creek areas and will meet with victims and families to provide services related to health and safety, personal advocacy and emotional support, referrals to medical services and mental health counseling, crisis intervention and providing information on criminal justice proceedings.
Currently there is no coordinator within the San Juan County Attorney’s Office to provide assistance to victims of crimes. CJC Program Director Connie Haycock said that many victims travel from Aneth, Bluff or Montezuma Creek all the way to Moab to access CJC services.
“I saw that that was a huge burden of travel for children and families … so I approached the [Utah Attorney General]’s office with the idea of opening up a satellite CJC in Blanding that could be used for those children and families in that area,” Haycock said.
The position will be funded by a Victims of Crime Act grant from the State of Utah. VOCA grants provide funding for state, local governments and private non-profit organizations to enhance and expand services to crime victims, promoting development of comprehensive services to crime victims throughout the state.
San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge said that the center provides important services for San Juan County.
“Resources are far and few between,” Eldredge said. “With these types of grants, with this type of assistance we’re able to bring those much-needed resources to victims of domestic violence who are often children in these cases. This is a great thing that we’re able to get from Grand County and from their assistance.”
The Grand County Council approved the job description for the new victim coordinator position because the program is funded by the state through a contract with Grand County. There is not enough money to open up a full new center in Blanding but with the VOCA grant, there is sufficient funding for a satellite center with a victim coordinator supervised by the CJC Program Director in Moab, Haycock said. San Juan County donated a building, utilities and a vehicle for the satellite center.
The victim coordinator will assist at the satellite center in Blanding but will also help multidisciplinary teams that Haycock established in Blanding and Montezuma Creek to help victims of child abuse.
The victim coordinator will focus on children but will be able to help other victims of crime in that area, Haycock confirmed.
“The philosophy behind a children’s justice center is that the child only has to tell their story only one time and those involved with case, whether it’s child protective services or law enforcement or the prosecutor then has access to that interview because it’s recorded. Our goal is that a child doesn’t have to tell their story again to another agency. Then we follow the child, make sure that they get services they need. We make sure the case doesn’t fall through the cracks in the system. We follow the case all the way through. That in itself is so healing for the child and the family,” Haycock said.