July 21, 2024
Funds

New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs ask for $4 million in funding


New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs is asking the legislature for a $4 million appropriation in recurring money from the general fund this year, executive director, Alexandria Taylor told NM Political Report. Taylor said the money goes to sustain services for the 15 sexual assault program providers and 11 sexual assault nurse examiners, often […]

New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs is asking the legislature for a $4 million appropriation in recurring money from the general fund this year, executive director, Alexandria Taylor told NM Political Report.

Taylor said the money goes to sustain services for the 15 sexual assault program providers and 11 sexual assault nurse examiners, often referred to as SANE, plus one satellite SANE provider. 

Taylor said that of the $4 million, $2 million would replace federal dollars that will no longer be available starting July 1. 

The federal dollars come from the Victims of Crime Act. The fund is sustained by fees and penalties awarded from federal criminal prosecution. But the VOCA fund has diminished over the years due to fewer fees and penalties in federal criminal convictions.

President Joe Biden signed a VOCA “fix it” bill in 2021 but Taylor said it did not change some of the problems, so the fund has not recovered. She said there is unpredictability as to whether the funds will ever recover.

“The VOCA fund is how some organizations got started. Historically, it was a stable core funding for programs,” Taylor said.

Taylor said there is no standalone bill this year, but that the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs has been advocating for the legislature to include the $4 million in the appropriation bill.

Taylor said that virtually all social issues that often dominate headlines, from crime to housing to substance abuse to child protective services are all related to sexual assault. She said that by underfunding sexual assault services, society “pays for it on the back end.”

“Often sexual assault providers are some of the only safety nets that exist. If we start to destabilize those providers, we’re only increasing the crisis. People have no idea the level of holding these programs provide in a community,” Taylor said.

Taylor said that the funding appropriated in recent legislative sessions has enabled sexual assault programing to grow across the state. She said that services have expanded in Valencia County and a SANE program now exists in that area. That helps to reduce driving times for victims of sexual assault who, because of the dearth of services in some rural parts of the state, have had to drive up to three hours to see a sexual assault nurse examiner. SANEs are specially trained to both examine a victim and to gather evidence if there is a future trial. 

But, Taylor said the need still overwhelms the efforts to meet it. She said there is a two week to 10-month wait list for counseling for victims of sexual assault.

“We don’t have a program that doesn’t have a wait list for counseling services,” she said.

She said sexual assault services have expanded to Alamogordo, Carlsbad and Hobbs and that a provider in Las Cruces opened satellite offices in Deming and Truth or Consequences. 

“For us it’s not just quantity, it’s the quality,” Taylor said.

She said the coalition is in the process of creating a sexual assault helpline and it will debut before June 30. 

Taylor said data from Fiscal Year 2023 shows that sexual assault services in New Mexico served an additional 7,200 victims of sexual assault and 3,800 family members of those survivors. She said 40 percent of the 7,200 were children under the age of 18. She said 30 percent of them were located in rural areas.

“They don’t just see one person. We’re talking (about) the whole community needing support,” Taylor said.

She said that if the state doesn’t make up for the loss of the federal VOCA funding, the sexual assault providers around the state won’t be able to serve as many survivors and family members of those survivors. She said it would lead to staffing cuts, which in turn would mean fewer resources available to survivors. 

“They’re already stretched thin,” she said.

She said therapeutic services would be significantly impacted, and the ability to ensure the SANE program has adequate funding would also be in jeopardy. 

“It’s an impossible and critical situation,” Taylor said.



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