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Budget impasse taking a toll on region’s domestic violence centers

Hundreds of purple ribbons are tied to the trees in front of the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte on Tuesday. Each ribbon represents a person who was assisted in Centre County for domestic violence.
Hundreds of purple ribbons are tied to the trees in front of the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte on Tuesday. Each ribbon represents a person who was assisted in Centre County for domestic violence. CDT Photo

As some commonwealth women’s resource centers are being forced to shutter their windows, the Centre County Women’s Resource Center is helping to pick up the slack.

The Centre County commissioners declared October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month on Tuesday, bringing to light the issue of violence in the home toward women, men and children.

“Sometimes we forget that domestic violence does happen in Centre County,” CCWRC Outreach and Education Director Jody Althouse said.

Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive or coercive behavior, she said, which could be physical, psychological or sexual. The CCWRC has served more than 1,100 victims in the past fiscal year, providing more than 3,700 total shelter days and more than 4,000 hours of counseling.

Each year, 1.3 million women are victims, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, she said. One in every four women will experience domestic violence each year.

More than 1,000 ribbons were tied to the trees outside of the Centre County Courthouse, Althouse said, each representing a victim the resource center has served in the county last year.

Financially, the center is in good shape, she said, and to date, the budget impasse has not affected its ability to provide service. She credited that to careful planning, which has kept funds available during the impasse.

The lack of a state budget has certainly affected other centers, she said, as some will be closing in the next two weeks because they can’t pay their staffs or keep their shelters open.

“What’s going to happen,” she said, “is we’re going to be taking on more and more responsibility and have more work coming soon.”

This means the center’s shelter could fill more quickly, she said. When the shelter is full, the center will often pay for hotel stays in order to provide additional shelter. Counseling services may also have to expand.

Althouse couldn’t say how many more cases the shelter will have to handle or how long the current funding will hold out.

“We’ll have to see what happens,” she said. “Staff is already stretched thin. We’re going to do what we can to help the other counties surrounding us.”

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