State program helping crime victims could see budget shortfall

State program helping crime victims could see budget shortfall

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is warning that a state program that grants money to crime victims for funeral expenses, medical care and other needs, faces a significant budget shortfall.

The fund needs at least $2 million to function uninterrupted. The lack of these funds could impact kids in Region 8.

The Northeast Arkansas Children's Advocacy Center relies on those funds for many services they provide to kids, particularly specialized medical exams.

A special exam room, inside the Children's Advocacy Center, could be impacted if the Crime Victims Reparations Program runs out of money in February.

“It's a pediatric medical sexual assault exam, and that is a big piece of what we do that's not available anywhere else, and really shouldn't be,” Kristy Nichols, CAC executive director, said. “This is the one place they need everything at one time.”

When a child has been sexually abused, they come to the center. They are able to relax in the play areas before they have to explain what happened, and then get examined.

A specially trained physician performs the exam because a regular doctor's examination could bring problems in court.

“It doesn't always stand up in court,” Nichols said. “So you want to make sure when these cases go to court they get the best of the best.”

She said without the funding they may not be able to provide the exams.

“Can you imagine having to tell we're sorry we can't help you,” Nichols said. “You need to drive to Little Rock. It could be Christmas Eve. It could be Christmas Day. It could be their birthday. It can be any time.”

Nichols said she needs help making sure this issue is at the top of the legislative agenda come January.

“One of the greatest things you can do is to call your legislature,” Nichols said. “January 12th will be when the new session is starting. We need to make sure this is at the front.”

She said the center does so many things for sexually abused children, at no cost, and without this funding other programs may suffer.

“We are budgeted down to the penny, and we want to make sure these kids get the best of the best,” Nichols said.

Nichols added that while some may think child sexual abuse doesn't affect them, they are wrong. She said the statistics show more people than most realize are victims or know someone involved in a sexual abuse crime.

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