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Grant will expand W.Va. victims' rights program

July 10, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff writer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Services for the victims and witnesses of crime in Berkeley County will soon be expanded thanks to a federal grant announced this week.

"The hiring process has already begun," Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said Wednesday. The county already has a coordinator for victims of domestic violence and the $23,429 grant will allow her to be elevated to head the victim and witness assistance program.

Games-Neely said she hopes by the end of the month to move Domestic Violence Coordinator Karen Baird up to VOCA coordinator with a new person filling the domestic violence slot.

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The grant is one of 35 totaling almost $1.5 million announced Monday by Gov. Cecil Underwood. The money, which goes to both public and private nonprofit groups, comes from the Victims of Crime Act Assistance (VOCA) grant program.

Baird was hired last October to assist victims of domestic violence through the Prosecuting Attorney's Office. Since then she has assisted about 165 victims by helping them seek restitution, providing information about legal rights and options, information about counseling and moral support in court. That program is funded through a separate federal grant program.

As the VOCA Coordinator, Baird will be in charge of helping victims of all types of crime. This is the first year Berkeley County has received a VOCA grant and Games-Neely said she hopes to get annual funding. Baird's salary will be $21,229 and is controlled by the grant. The Prosecuting Attorney's Office provides in-kind services such as office space, computers and some travel expenses.

Baird and the new domestic violence coordinator will work together providing victim and witness assistance. Games-Neely added her office is in the process of "setting up the volunteer coalition that will work with both these individuals." This will be a group of professionals, students and other citizens who can provide additional victim services.

The Shenandoah Women's Center in Martinsburg will receive a $65,000 VOCA grant to continue funding for a full-time outreach worker in Berkeley County, part-time outreach workers in Jefferson and Morgan counties and two part-time sexual assault and abuse therapists. Executive Director Ann Smith said the center has received VOCA grants since 1988.

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