Sex abuse center gets key funding
State lawmakers have increased funding to support treatment for sex assault victims statewide, ending the possibility of shutting down programs and cutting services offered by the Sex Abuse Treatment Center.
"For us it allows us to continue to do the work to support victim services and prevention," said Adriana Ramelli, executive director of the Sex Abuse Treatment Center.
Gov. Linda Lingle signed House Bill 2278, which sets aside $1,076,217 in emergency appropriations toward better outreach for treatment for sex assault victims and programs for prevention of sexual violence.
That brings the total to $2 million in state general revenues for the treatment center for fiscal year 2006-07.
Between 1996 and 2005, the center received an annual budget of $923,783 in state general funds. In the past, requests for additional funding were not successful, with such issues as the Felix consent decree and disaster preparedness receiving higher priority.
During that time, the treatment center, which offers programs and services on the neighbor islands through subcontractors, received financial support from supplemental funding that came from the rainy day fund, Victims of Crime Act Fund and other sources of state funding. The treatment center also received private donations and grants. But the "piecemeal" funding approach affected the sustainability of services.
With the additional funding, the threat of closing programs and cutting services has dissipated.
The additional $1 million will go toward emergency appropriations for programs and treatment services, which will be overseen by the Department of the Attorney General.
A 2005 comprehensive report called "Shaping Tomorrow: The Future of Sexual Violence Programs in Hawaii," written by a group of service providers, state and county officials and community stakeholders, had an impact on lawmakers about the need to sustain sex assault services, Ramelli said.
She also credited state Attorney General Mark Bennett for presenting the need to the state Legislature and administration.
"We really need to have a strategy that not only address making sure criminals are appropriately punished for their crime, but also making sure victims of crime, especially those of sexual assault, have the opportunity to get back to normal in their lives," Bennett said.
Bennett said he plans to make a recommendation that the treatment center receive $2 million each year in the 2007-2009 biennium budget.