Local violence prevention office transformed

Darlene Jones

Over the past year, the community has stepped up to ensure some of the most troubled of residents in the area can continue receiving services.

The Monroe County Violence Prevention Center office continues to operate part-time for domestic violence victims. Additionally, Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois Executive Director Darlene Jones announced an addition to the office during the county’s recent Peace Walk for domestic violence awareness.

The event took place in Columbia in honor of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As Jones spoke about services, she announced that Tammy Banning was being hired to provide part-time counseling in the office.

“We’ve been providing services to (the county) but we’ve never had a counselor there so getting someone in part-time is great for us,” Jones said. “We’ve always provided counseling services but we didn’t go to the client. The client would go to us.”

Banning will hold office hours from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays. Additionally, a longtime counselor in the office, Ralph Smith, will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays.

Banning has a masters degree in social work and is an Illinois Certified Domestic Violence Professional, a status which requires passing a state exam and completing 10 hours of training in a domestic violence center. She also did an internship with the county office.

Additionally, Smith is an Illinois Certified Domestic Violence Professional and a licensed clinical social worker. He has been in the office for 20 years. 

According to Banning, counseling services include adult counseling for victims. Call 618-235-0892 for counseling services.

“We have the office in the courthouse, but it’s only available for our counselors to use two days a week. What’s great is Call for Help just opened an office in Waterloo and is going to allow our counselors to use it the other day,” Jones said.

Call for Help is located at 219A W. Mill Street in Waterloo. Aside from counseling, Jones said the office includes a part-time legal advocate. Melissa Kaufman is available three days a week in Monroe County.

In a basic sense, an advocate serves as a liaison between the client and legal professionals and law enforcement to ensure the client is treated with dignity and respect. The advocate can also talk clients through their choices on what to do following a domestic abuse incident.

As another important step in the process, legal advocates guide clients through the legal process if they choose to press charges against their offender or file a lawsuit. Services are 100 percent free to clients.

Filling the gap
Troubling news came last year after the violence prevention office discovered the state would take away a Violence Against Women Act Stop grant. Though the grant comes from the federal government, the state distributes the funds. The violence prevention office had already been missing state funding when this occurred.

After some deliberation, the county agreed to share in the cost of keeping the office open with the cities of Waterloo and Columbia. The office has since received some money from a new three-year $367,731 Victims of Crime Act federal grant  for the VPCSWI to allow these local governments to end their funding commitment.

“There is a requirement where we have to renew the grant every year, and as long as we keep doing what we’re doing, we get the money,” Jones said. “With the way things are going, I’m not worried about us not receiving it. I’d say it’s pretty locked in.”

Last year, when news of the funding problem broke, the community also stepped up to fill the gap with fundraisers. A shotgun shell sorting event at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta brought in more than $9,000 for Monroe and Randolph services.

“It’s amazing the way the community stepped up to help us continue with services. I don’t think you get that kind of support in the larger communities,” Jones said.

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