From the Director’s Desk, September 14, 2023
During this call, Director Rose provided updates on funding awards, takeaways from recent travels, the upcoming launch of a free tool to measure program outcomes and service quality, the status of the Crime Victims Fund, and more.
DARYL FOX: Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to the September 14, 2023, installment of From the Director’s Desk. We’re glad you’re able join us today. All audio lines are muted, as this is a listen-only briefing. For reference, this recording will be posted tomorrow to the OVC website.
At this time, it’s my pleasure to introduce Kristina Rose, OVC Director, for today’s briefing.
KRISTINA ROSE: Thanks so much, Daryl. And good afternoon, everyone. I’ve just returned, last night, from Las Vegas, where we were at the National Funeral Directors Association International Conference. And I feel like I should be saying good morning. In fact, since the last From the Director’s Desk, I think I’ve hit almost all the time zones. It’s been quite a month, but let’s jump right in so I can tell you all about it.
After last month’s broadcast, I headed to Chicago for our National Joint Training Conference for VOCA Victim Assistance and Victim Compensation Administrators. It was a dynamic, informative, well-orchestrated, and engaging event. And I think what make it so meaningful, was the fact that this year, the VOCA Administrators set the agenda themselves. So it really reflected the issues that they care most about.
And we had a host of honored guests open the conference: Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Chief Justice Peter Birnbaum of the Illinois Court of Claims, and the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Morris Pasqual. Their participation really underscored their commitment to the issues that we all care about so much. And over the course of the 4-day conference probably the best part for me was having the opportunity to interact personally, with so many of the state administrators. They are an incredible group of public servants, who are employing such innovative and creative solutions to making sure that all victims have access to the services that they need for healing, and for recovery after a crime has been committed. They are doing wonderful things.
And while I was there in Chicago, I joined Eddie Bocanegra, who is a senior advisor in the Office of the Assistant Attorney General here at OJP, and some members of my staff--Sasha Rutizer, Sharron Fletcher, and Fred Rogers--and we met with three organizations doing community violence intervention work. And these organizations--the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, Chicago Survivors, and the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago--are doing incredible work on behalf of survivors and the people that are at highest risk of being involved in gun violence.
Case in point, the morning I met with them, staff from all three organizations were present at the funeral of a young murder victim, who was a client of Precious Blood, and there was a drive-by shooting that occurred during the funeral that left two people in critical condition. And it was astounding to me that these folks--and we met with all of them--it, you know, they are so committed to the work that you know, they wanted to be present and we certainly wanted to bear witness to the work that they did. But it was such a grim reminder of the danger that many service providers face in the course of their jobs every day. And I just don’t think that we think about that very much; especially, in these community violence intervention programs. But they just keep at it.
There’s so much hope in their work. And I left that day feeling a little overwhelmed, but I was so inspired.
Then after the VOCA conference, I participated in a federal panel at the Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Use Program National Forum in Arlington, Virginia. And we shorten that title to COSSUP, by the way. I joined BJA Director Karhlton Moore, NIJ Director Nancy La Vigne, OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan, and BJS Principal Deputy Director Kevin Scott for a discussion about how our agencies collectively support local, state, and Tribal practitioners in reducing overdose deaths, promoting public safety, and supporting access to treatment and recovery services in the criminal justice system.
Now my focus, was on our work supporting the youngest victims of the addiction crisis. Children and youth who are exposed to parental substance use may be at greater risk for crime victimization during their lifetimes, including child abuse and neglect, human trafficking, and intimate partner violence. Our funding provides services to children and youth who are impacted in these ways by caregiver substance use and abuse. And there’s so much interest in OVC’s work. And I’m really, really glad we were there.
In Boston, I welcomed attendees to the National Center for Victims of Crime’s 2023 National Training Institute. Now, we have worked with the National Center on many OVC-funded projects, so I was delighted to announce at the conference that OVC will continue its support of their VictimConnect Hotline with a $2 million award. Now with this new award, the National Center will build upon its current VictimConnect Hotline but will expand the hours of availability to 24/7 to be able to provide that crisis intervention support. And we know that the folks that work at VictimConnect have a trauma-informed, culturally, and linguistically appropriate, survivor-centered approach that protects the safety and confidentiality of victims and survivors.
I also announced that the National Center would receive a $2 million dollar award to serve as a pass-through entity and training and TA provider for establishing trauma-informed peer-to-peer support programs. Peer-to-peer support is one of my highest priorities. The concept is based on the belief that people who have faced, endured, and overcome adversity can offer useful support, encouragement, hope, and mentorship to others facing similar situations. One defining characteristic is that they are mostly run by and for the people they serve. So this grant will place a strong emphasis on ensuring that peer support is culturally specific so that all survivors can experience what it feels like to be authentically heard and understood.
Now, as I mentioned at the top of the briefing, I’ve just returned from the National Funeral Directors Association Conference. And some of you might be wondering what I was doing there, as it’s not a typical event for us. But when I became the Director of OVC, I heard from many survivors and folks in the field about how victims of crime, especially family members of homicide victims, were not aware of compensation and healing services available to them.
So, I’ve been looking for opportunities to make connections with organizations that we don’t typically work closely with but that may still come in contact with survivors. And this is one of those connections. On Sunday morning, I was able to meet with their board and CEO of the association for an hour, which was way more time than I expected to have with them. And I was so heartened by the welcoming and supportive response that I received.
Our wonderful Communications Lead, Emily Bauernfeind, attended with me. And the two of us gave a workshop on the critical role of funeral directors in connecting homicide victims′ families with various victim-related resources, especially crime victim compensation because it offers reimbursement for funeral and burial services. And this was our first time there, and boy did we get just an awesome reception.
At this particular panel we had prepared a PowerPoint presentation that we eventually just ditched because it was so obvious that this group wanted to talk. Many of them were aware of crime victim compensation programs and had already established relationships with their state administrators, which was fantastic. Some had amazing experiences with compensation, receiving reimbursements within weeks; and some waited up to 2 years.
It was clear to me that these individuals, many of them independent funeral home operators and trusted pillars of community want to help. So between the panel, the meeting with the board, and our 3-hour excursion to the exhibit hall, which was something to behold, we learned an incredible amount about funeral directors and the important link they provide to survivors of homicide victims. We made numerous plans to engage with the association through podcasts and webinars. And I’m going to write an article for their magazine that’s called, The Director. Because we believe that this kind of interaction will help us to do a better job of reaching these truly, truly committed community partners.
While I was there, Emily and I also visited the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center, which was stood up after the horrific shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas that killed 58 people and injured hundreds. The center is managed by Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and it’s staffed by some incredibly knowledgeable and caring professionals that help people access resources for building strength and resiliency in the aftermath of tragedy.
Our visit coincidentally, coincided with the 9/11 anniversary. And it really felt good, we were able to find some solace in the healing garden that they had created as we paid our respects to the victims of 9/11, those of the Route 91 Harvest Festival, and all of the mass violence incidents since that day in September 2001. And I was incredibly impressed with the staff at the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center and how they have continued, for years now, to honor and support the victims and survivors of this tragic event. So that day was a day that I just won’t forget.
Now this leads me to remind all of you that September 25 is the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims. I encourage you to listen, if you haven’t already, to my conversation with Roberta Roper last year on our podcast series. Her story underscores the importance of honoring the memories of murder victims, and recognizing the impact of that crime on surviving family members, and on the advocates who serve them--many of whom are survivors themselves.
And now for the Crime Victims Fund update. We just got this in yesterday. The amount of money that was deposited into the CVF for the month of August was $30.8 million dollars, and the balance now is $879 million, which reflects the obligated state victim assistance and compensation formula awards. Unfortunately, it is the lowest balance of the CVF since 2006, and we still have some fiscal year ‘23 awards to be obligated.
So the balance of the Fund, as I said, is about $800 million or so. We need about $400 million dollars in September deposits to meet the President’s budget and the House and Senate marks for FY ’24. However, if we don't meet the $1.2 billion dollar cap in September, we do still have time to collect more deposits before we obligate ’24 funding, FY ’24 funding I should say. But obviously, it’s not the preferred approach, because it will impact the following year. But we will continue to monitor the CVF closely and keep you all updated. I also want to assure you that every day we are working towards solutions to making the Crime Victims Fund solvent.
Lastly, later this month, one of our grantees will be launching the iMPRoVE platform, a free tool that victim service providers can use to start measuring the impact their services are having on survivors’ lives. The grantee is the Research Triangle Institute. The platform comes with an interactive data dashboard to easily display findings. And I know that data and performance measures aren’t always the most exciting thing to talk about. But outcome data, when it’s used in partnership with other crime and victim service data, it can really help victim service providers not only understand their--how their work is supporting survivors, but it really helps to demonstrate the value of the services they provide. So stay tuned for that launch! It’s coming soon.
I want to thank all of you for joining me again this month! And for the encouraging words of support that I have been hearing about this broadcast. I just love it when people tell me that they’ve listened and they enjoyed the information that we shared. Next month, I’ll be sharing more about our new awards that we make for FY ‘23, so be sure to join me on October 12.
So, enjoy the rest of your week. Take good care. And thank you for everything that you do to help crime victims find their justice.
Opinions or points of view expressed in these recordings represent those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Any commercial products and manufacturers discussed in these recordings are presented for informational purposes only and do not constitute product approval or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Justice.