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County comes to aid of child advocacy center

News editor

When county commissioners learned Monday of the dire financial plight threatening closure of a program that works with child sexual abuse cases, they reacted swiftly, approving $2,500 to help the program stay afloat.

“Can we get them a check today?” asked commissioner Dan Holub. “They’re obviously in dire need.”

Heart 2 Heart, a Newton-based program, conducts interviews with child sexual abuse victims that meet rigorous standards to ensure information obtained is admissible in court, as well as providing additional support services. The program covers Marion, Harvey, and McPherson counties, and has served 34 children from Marion County this year.

Suzanne Robinson, of Florence, is a Heart 2 Heart board member, and she told commissioners the current financial crisis resulted from a combination of a change in the executive director position, cash flow issues related to grant awards, and repayment of funds to the state for misapplication of funds received.

“Right now we’ve depleted our savings,” Robinson said. “We had to pay back $4,000.”

Commissioner Randy Dallke was concerned about the long-term viability of the program, which depends on a mix of grant funds and private donations. Robinson said the new executive director, Donovan Graber, had addressed the management issues surrounding the state payback, and was working to get grant funding back in sync with the program’s needs.

“It’s something we’d like to see Marion County help fund,” Robinson said.

County attorney Susan Robson said the number of cases handled by Heart 2 Heart varies.

“Some years are outrageous,” Robson said.

“It’s a community problem,” Holub said.

Robinson said child interviews conducted by Heart 2 Heart have been instrumental in convicting numerous Marion County child sexual abusers. A complete workup of one case costs the program more than $1,200, she said.

Before approving $2,500 for the request, Commissioner Roger Fleming recommended other sources for funds, such as Families and Communities Together, Kiwanis clubs, and community foundations.

Commissioners unanimously passed the measure, but Holub and Dallke had different views about subsequent funding.

“Don’t hesitate to come back in if you need to, we don’t want you to run out,” Holub said. “We’ll do our part to help keep it open.”

“It’s a tough commitment,” Dallke said. “I want to see if it will survive.”

In other business:

  • Planning and zoning department director Tonya Richards received approval to purchase a $1,300 customizable mapping program. She said the program will allow more timely and accurate responses to customers.
  • A stop sign was approved for the east exit of Centre High School parking lot. The west exit already had a stop sign, and cars were using the east exit to avoid stopping. Stop signs were approved for the intersection at 180th and Falcon Rds.

Last modified Sept. 18, 2014

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