Cole County to hire new victim advocate

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JEFFERSON CITY – Cole County is in the process of hiring its second victim advocate, who will work with the county prosecutor’s office.

The decision comes after the Cole County Commission approved $4,000 in extra funds that will go toward the advocate’s salary.

Cole County currently has a victim advocate from the Rape and Abuse Crisis Service (RACS), who is limited to doing work for victims of sexual and domestic violence offenses. The new advocate will be able to deal with cases involving crimes of any kind. 

“I was very happy that our Cole County Commission approved some additional funds to make the salary competitive so that we could hire someone that’s previously had a lot of experience helping victims,” Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson said.

The majority of funding for the advocate’s salary and benefits will come from a $36,000 federal grant given by the Office for Victims of Crime.

Grants were given statewide to the counties that applied for them and were based upon the caseloads of individual prosecutors' offices. Moniteau, Morgan and Miller counties share one victim advocate who handles cases for each county.

“We’re still kind of working our way through it having one person working for three counties, because sometimes we have court dates on the same day, and we have cases coming in on a daily basis,” Moniteau County Prosecutor Shayne Healea said.

Healea said the advocate only started a month ago, but the county has already begun to see benefits.

“Crime victims now have someone in each of our offices whose job is just 100 percent dedicated to helping them through the process, getting them counseling services and updating them on how the case is progressing through the system,” he said.

County prosecutors' offices will be eligible to reapply for the grants on a yearly basis.

Richardson said, “In the past, myself and the other assistant prosecutors have had to pay additional attention to fulfilling the victim’s needs, and sometimes that’s put the double duty on us because we’re already trying to prepare our best for the trial.”

Richardson said prosecutors will now be able to better serve the needs of victims. The new Cole County advocate will start by Oct. 1.