BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Crisis Services is a place that just about anyone can turn to in times of crisis, but a state agency cut $300,000 from a crucial advocacy program that was nearly catastrophic.
During state budget deliberations, the New York State Office of Victim Services (OVS) refused to restore the funds, so state lawmakers took the initiative.
“We are thrilled, we are absolutely thrilled,” said Robyn Wiktorski-Reynolds, director of Crisis Services’ Advocate Program. “It is affirming the need for these services in our community.”
The Advocate Program provides counseling and other critical services for survivors of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and elder abuse.
Last year, OVS gouged the advocacy program, leading to cutbacks and layoffs. But a petition drive that netted more than 2,000 signatures convinced state lawmakers to put the money back into the Advocate Program without going through the OVS.
Wiktorski-Reynolds is elated, saying services for a survivor of sexual abuse, domestic violence, or elder abuse is crucial.
“Whenever a survivor of one of those crimes presents at any one of the 10 hospitals in Erie County, one of my staff, or trained volunteers goes out, assesses what is happening, does safety planning, connects them to resources,” Wiktorski-Reynolds said. “That is a huge piece of our program that no other program offers.”
Buffalo Senator Timothy Kennedy was among the lawmakers fought to get the money back.
“Now Crisis Services will have the wherewithal, the resources, to help these individuals at the most vulnerable time in their lives,” he said.
Kennedy added, he couldn’t think of a better way to spend the money put back into Crisis Services’ budget.
“This is critically important to the needs of our community, especially women in our community who are battered, who need a place to turn to, who need a place for comfort, who need a place to assist them to get out of the place where they are being abused,” Kennedy said.
Wiktorski-Reynolds said, Crisis Services’ 24-hour hotline never skipped a beat, but they are re-assessing some of their priorities.
Once the agency gets its funding back on solid ground, Wiktorski-Reynolds said they might be bringing back some or all of the staff that was laid off.