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Advocates opt out of new SRS contract





Local services for victims of domestic and sexual violence likely will not be negatively affected by a recent Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence decision not to pursue a new collaborative contract with Kansas Social and Rehabilitative Services.

For 13 years, KCSDV has contracted with Kansas SRS to provide services to domestic violence and sexual assault victims receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. New requirements put forth by the state have been considered by KCSDV to render the project, known as OARS, "more dangerous for survivors and fundamentally impossible to administer in accordance with our core principles of safety and justice," according to a KCSDV press release.

The new SRS mandates, one of which requires victims be psychologically evaluated, appear "punitive" to Charlotte Linsner, Options Domestic and Sexual Violence Services executive director. In addition to the psychological evaluation, a corrective action plan and a requirement that 90 percent of survivors who receive services be employed at the end of 18 months also are included in the new SRS mandates.

Those mandates might not be punitive as far as SRS is concerned due to the fact the organization must meet its own requirements, she added. However, safety of the client is the first concern of Options, she said.

"In my mind, a victim has already taken action when they decide, 'OK, I need to see an advocate,' " she said. "To have (a psychological evaluation) mandated, that's the problem.

"If we're going to mandate it for the victim, are we going to mandate it for the perpetrators that come into SRS ... because they're not going to say they're in a domestic violence situation."

Locally, one part-time OARS advocate position was funded in the Hays SRS office. With loss of funding for that position, the advocate has taken a recently vacated advocate position in Phillipsburg.

Options clients should not see any other changes in regard to the KCSDV's decision regarding SRS.

"They'll still receive the same quality of services that we're able to provide," Linsner said. "We have to stay client-centered.

"We will provide the same core service to every victim, 24-hour call, immediate crisis intervention, referrals that are needed and whatever advocacy is needed."

In a press release from the Kansas SRS, Secretary Phyllis Gillmore said she was "not surprised that KCSDV is backing away from providing services for the approximately 450 TANF clients in the domestic violence program.

"KCSDV had been struggling to meet our new accountability standards for several months," she said.

Linsner said Options has remained compliant with reporting requirements throughout the 13 year-span of the project.

"Our integrity is so important to us," she said. "We met monthly with the SRS and talked over any issues. And to our knowledge, any problems that may have occurred were resolved."

Relationships between Options and SRS offices in Colby, Hays and Phillipsburg have "always been wonderful," Linsner said, with each entity working together to see the needs of the clients were met.