DeWine's plan could expand aid for sexual assault programs


LORAIN — A plan proposed by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine could expand support for sexual assault services across Ohio and provide a boost to the Nord Center’s sexual assault programs.

Also, a bill proposed by two state representatives yesterday would require charging sex offenders $100 to register, with the money going to sexual assault programs.

Only 36 counties in Ohio offer comprehensive sexual assault services, according to DeWine’s office. DeWine’s proposed Sexual Assault Services Expansion Program will bridge those gaps by providing grant funding to pay for regional sexual assault coordinators, who would oversee the implementation or expansion of such services in all 88 counties.

“Months before the tragic sexual assault in Steubenville, I asked my Crime Victims Section to undertake an analysis of all crime victim services in the state, and we found startling gaps in sexual assault services in Ohio,” DeWine stated. “It is our goal to ensure that a quick and compassionate emergency response is available to any victim of sexual assault at any time of the day, any day of the week and in any area of the state.”

It is unclear how much money DeWine’s plan could bring to Lorain County, but the expansion of services in other counties and the proposed House Bill would help the underfunded sexual assault services at the Nord Center, said Mindi Kuebler, program manager for the sexual assault unit at the center.

The bill proposed by representatives Nan Baker and Kirk Schuring would fund hotlines, victim advocacy and support services at eligible rape crisis programs by charging sex offenders $100 to register. According to the Ohio Attorney General’s website, there are more than 18,000 sex offenders registered in Ohio and more than 640 in Lorain County.

“The increase in funding also increases the amount of services we can provide and the amount of awareness we can put out in the community,” Kuebler said.

Nord Center’s sexual assault services see victims referred by other counties with no or lacking services, Director of Institutional Advancement Betsey Kamm said. About 5 percent of the people served are from out county, she said.

The change could allow more money to be focused on Lorain County residents if the other counties had expanded services, she said.

Sexual Assault Services at the Nord Center include three components: the Sexual Assault Care unit, the Kidz First Children’s Advocacy Center and the Lorain County Rape Crisis program.

All three components receive different levels of funding. The Sexual Assault Care Unit, which performs forensic exams, has each exam paid for by the attorney general’s office, according to Kamm, Each test costs roughly $532, and the center estimates roughly 235 tests are performed each year. The Community Foundation of Greater Lorain County also provides $25,000, she said.

The children’s advocacy center is funded partially by $10,000 from the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers and $32,400 from United Way, she said.

The county rape crisis program receives $66,543 from the Victims of Crime Act and $7,772 from the State Victims Assistance Act, Kamm said. It is also funded in varying amounts by the Lorain County Board of Mental Health, she said.

The Nord Center fills the remainder of its funding through special fundraisers and individual donations. A Steak Fry at St. Peters Pavilion, 3501 Oberlin Ave, at 5:30 p.m. on July 19 will be the group’s next fundraiser.

Even if the group received the full amount of the more than $64,000 that could be collected by Lorain County’s 642 registered sex offenders, it would still need to fill $20,000 through fundraising.

“That would not even fill the gap that we have at this point, but it would certainly be a welcome addition,” Kuebler said.