Management Audit Committee
Senator H. R. "Hank" Coe, Chairman
Senator Guy E. Cameron
Representative E. Jayne Mockler
Representative Harry B. Tipton, Vice Chairman
Senator April Brimmer Kunz, Secretary
Senator Gregory A. Phillips
Senator Jim Twiford
Representative Patricia Nagel
Representative George W. "Bud" Nelson
Representative Carolyn Paseneaux
Representative Rick Tempest
Senator H. R. "Hank" Coe, Chairman
Senator Guy E. Cameron
Representative E. Jayne Mockler
In the past 20 years, a national victims' movement has increased public awareness of the rights and needs of victims. This movement precipitated federal and state laws intended to balance the rights of victims with those accorded to the accused. In Wyoming, depending on the type of crime involved, victim assistance is available from 49 local programs operating throughout the state. These local providers receive funding, program guidance, and oversight primarily from two state-level agencies that serve sometimes overlapping groups of victims.
The Department of Health's Behavioral Health Division houses the Office on Family Violence and Sexual Assault (FV/SA). One full-time program manager provides oversight and funding to private, non-profit family violence centers in each of Wyoming's counties. The Office's budget for the current biennium is $2,721,978. The General Fund comprises most of the program's budget, with an additional $400,000 in support from a federal grant. Ninety-four percent of the budget is allocated to local providers, and six percent supports administrative costs.
The Crime Victims' Compensation Commission (CVCC) is organizationally located in the Attorney General's Office. CVCC administers two main programs: one to provide compensation for victims injured as a result of violent crime, and the other to support local victim assistance services. A three-member Commission makes compensation awards, while a Commission-appointed board awards competitive grants to organizations such as family violence programs, local law enforcement agencies, and prosecutors' offices to provide victim services through all levels of the criminal justice system.
CVCC's budget for the current biennium is $1,902,970, comprised of two federal grants and state criminal surcharge revenues. Of this budget, 76 percent supported the compensation and victim assistance programs, while the remaining 24 percent funded administration. CVCC employs five full-time staff and contracts for consultant services. CVCC also administers a federal AmeriCorps grant, with a paid AmeriCorps coordinator.
Because the responsibility for providing services to crime victims is split among several state agencies and numerous local providers, the state lacks an effective administrative structure to coordinate the actions of policy makers and service providers within this system. This fragmentation and lack of coordination can have a negative impact on local victim service providers. Some are unhappy with the amount of time and paperwork required to obtain funding from several sources. Other providers are concerned about the fairness of certain resource allocation decisions.
Funding to support victim services is derived from a complicated patchwork of federal, state, local, and private sources. We identified at least 13 different sources of support for programs that offer victim assistance and compensation. We estimate that the combined total revenues from these sources will exceed $8 million for the current biennium.
State-level administrative costs may be higher than necessary because of the expenses associated with operating two separate agencies that provide local program oversight. In addition to the cost of two managers, both agencies require basic support services such as phone lines, computer systems, office supplies, travel, personnel, and training.
Since the responsibility for the major sources of funds for local victim service programs is split between the FV/SA office and CVCC, many local programs must meet dual and somewhat overlapping monitoring and reporting requirements. Under the current structure community programs must fill out two sets of grant applications, submit to two oversight inspections, and provide regular performance information to both state programs. Some local directors believe this process takes away from the time they can spend helping victims. Many providers also believe that CVCC's interpretation of federal requirements has made grant provisions more stringent than what the federal program mandates.
Over the years, structures were set up to administer the various victim assistance funds as monies became available from the state and federal governments. This evolution resulted in a fragmented state-level administration with no overall decision-making authority. Statutes positioned programs in different agencies and gave them varying oversight provisions. For example, CVCC has a Commission with authority for both staffing and funding allocation decisions. At FV/SA, however, these decisions are made by the program manager who has chosen to work closely with a coalition of family violence providers.
Both of these administrative structures have generated some criticism. There is a perception that CVCC is too far removed from the Governor's or the Attorney General's oversight to have authority to allocate such large amounts of funding. Regarding the FV/SA Office, some claim it lacks accountability because its program manager can make decisions without the oversight of a board or commission, and alternatively, that the coalition has too strong an influence in its operation.
Two additional issues have further fragmented this state-level structure. First, the allocation of a stream of federal funding important to victim assistance providers has generated discord at both the state and local levels. Second, a basic philosophical difference in approaches to providing victim services has made the allocation of this funding contentious.
There is some urgency for developing an over-arching state plan for victim services, because federal funding has been increasing in recent years and shows no signs of diminishing. Some of the federal funds coming into the state will double in the next fiscal year, while others will triple. To make optimum use of these funds, and to position Wyoming's victim service efforts for the future will require more than the current loosely organized structure.
Administrative consolidation would create a single overall authority in charge of victim services at the state level, to speak for victims as a single voice. This structure promises improved managerial efficiency and would promote greater accountability than what exists under the state's current fragmented approach.
In the last few years, there has been considerable discussion about the best way to administer victim services at the state level in Wyoming. This question has been researched and analyzed by a number of entities. Many who have been involved see advantages to structural changes, but executive branch managers have been unable to reach a strong consensus to allow this to occur through communication and informal coordination.
The issue of an effective governance structure requires legislative direction. This issue is so fundamental that until it is resolved, a cohesive approach to victim services is unlikely
to emerge, and the chances for miscommunication between programs, overlap in services, and ineffective use of resources will remain.
(Note: Text of the complete report begins below.)
W.S. 28-8-107 (b) authorizes the Legislative Service Office to conduct program evaluations and performance audits. Generally, the purpose of such research is to provide a base of knowledge from which policy makers can make informed decisions.
In September 1996, the Management Audit Committee selected the Crime Victims Compensation Commission as the subject for a review. After a preliminary assessment and staff update, the Committee approved an expanded scope for this project to include additional agencies with responsibilities to provide services to victims of crime. Accordingly, the research described in this report centered around the following questions concerning the state-level organizational structure:
Because these questions were of such a fundamental nature, we focused our research on state-level administration of services to victims. Our scope did not include an evaluation of the effectiveness of services delivered, or of specific program management issues or processes. An analysis of such issues would require additional time for evaluation work, and would first depend on the resolution of underlying structural problems.
This evaluation was conducted according to statutory requirements and professional standards and methods for governmental audits. The research was conducted between September and November 1996.
We reviewed relevant statutes, rules, regulations, policies, annual reports, budget documents, professional literature, financial reports, other reports and studies, and a variety of other program materials.
In addition, we attended a training for victim service providers and those involved in the criminal justice process. Finally, we interviewed local service providers, key administrators and various other state officials with knowledge of the victim service system.
The Legislative Service Office would like to express appreciation to the individuals who assisted in this research, especially to the staff of the Crime Victims Compensation Commission, the Office on Family Violence and Sexual Assault, and the Attorney General's Office.
In the United States, a crime is considered to be committed against the state rather than solely against the victim. As a result, crime victims have been relegated to a minimal role in the prosecution of the accused. In the last two decades, however, a nationwide victims' movement has emerged to increase public awareness of the rights and needs of victims. The movement led to enactment of laws at the state and federal levels intended to balance the rights of victims and the accused.
Prompted by President Reagan's 1982 Task Force on Victims of Crime, Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act in March of 1984. A part of this legislation was the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), which provides federal grants to states to enhance services for victims of crime and to promote more uniform services among states. The same year, Congress enacted the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act; it provides grants to states to support services for victims of family violence and their dependents.
In Wyoming, the Legislature amended the Community Human Services Act to add sheltering victims of family violence and sexual assault to the range of community services supported by the state in 1984. The next year, it passed the Crime Victims Compensation Act to establish a system for compensating victims of crime and their dependents. This legislation also set up a system for distributing federal monies to local crime victim assistance programs. Statutes authorizing these programs are attached as Appendix A.
As a result of these separate legislative actions, several agencies and a network of community-based programs are involved in funding and providing victim services. Examples of services provided include: compensation for medical expenses, assistance to victims and witnesses in understanding and participating in the criminal justice system, emergency shelter and crisis intervention for victims of family violence and sexual assault, and notification of victims about offender status.
This report focuses on the state-level administrative structure. Two agencies are primarily responsible for victim services: Office on Family Violence and Sexual Assault (Department of Health), and Crime Victims Compensation Commission (Attorney General). The Department of Corrections also has a small role. These agencies provide funding, program guidance, and oversight to local providers, as well as certain direct services to victims. Through parallel administrative offices and provider networks, they serve sometimes overlapping groups of victims, with similar but not identical services.
The following sections describe the numerous and interwoven funding and administrative components of the state's governance structure for victim services. Adding to this complexity are the many requirements tied to federal grant monies. However, it should be noted that even with this complexity, the state has considerable flexibility in determining how to structure state-level administration of victim services.
The Department of Health's Behavioral Health Division houses the Office on Family Violence and Sexual Assault (FV/SA). This program supports crisis intervention and referral services for victims of family violence and sexual assault. One full-time program manager distributes funding to the 23 private, non-profit family violence centers in each of Wyoming's counties. The FV/SA program manager also monitors each program for compliance with state standards and coordinates the activities of seven volunteers from the federal Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program who are placed in six local programs.
Using state, federal, and other funding, staff and volunteers in community programs provide crisis intervention for victims of family violence in numerous ways. For example, they may accompany victims to hospital emergency rooms, provide assistance in filling out applications for protection orders, and accompany victims to court for civil and criminal court actions. They may also provide information about options, emergency housing, food stamps, transportation, child care, and counseling on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week. In addition, the family violence centers offer educational programs on prevention, protection, and self-defense.
FV/SA Program Funding. The Office's budget for the current biennium is $2,721,978. Ninety-four percent of the budget is allocated to local providers, with the remainder for administration. Additional administrative costs such as support and fiscal staff services are absorbed by Health. The General Fund is the primary funding source, augmented by $400,000 in federal grants from the Family Violence Prevention Services Act; according to the program's administrator, this source of funds is expected to at least double beginning in the Fall of 1997. State funds are allocated to local providers on the basis of county population and shelter size, while federal funds are divided equally among the 23 community programs.
Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Federal funds are available to private non-profit coalitions that include representatives of the majority of domestic violence programs in their states. According to federal law, such coalitions are to promote domestic violence intervention and prevention through public education. This law also allows coalitions to participate in the planning and monitoring of the state's distribution of federal grant funds to local providers.
Wyoming's coalition works closely with the FV/SA Office in making decisions relating to the allocation of federal funds. It also provides networking and educational opportunities for its members and addresses domestic violence and sexual assault issues at a policy-making level. In FY 96, the Wyoming coalition received $47,000 in federal funds, and expects to receive $130,000 in the next fiscal year.
Organizationally, the Crime Victims' Compensation Commission (CVCC) is located within the Attorney General's Office. It operates two main programs intended to benefit all victims of violent crime, one to provide victim compensation and the other to support victim assistance services. Staff also provide some direct services to victims of crime. A three-member Commission is appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate; Commissioners serve without salary for six-year terms. The Commission makes compensation awards and promotes crime victims' rights issues through advocacy, education, and training.
CVCC staff includes a director appointed by the Commission, two compensation claims specialists, an accountant, and an administrative secretary. CVCC contracts for consultant services and uses legal interns when available. CVCC is also responsible for administering a federal AmeriCorps grant which provides 20 volunteers to work with victim assistance programs around the state. One of the 20 AmeriCorps volunteers assists in CVCC's office, and CVCC supervises an additional position, a paid AmeriCorps coordinator.
CVCC Funding. CVCC's budget for the FY 97/98 biennium is $1,902,970, comprised of $850,000 in federal funding and $1,052,970 in state revenues. Since 1989, CVCC has operated without General Funds, deriving its state revenues from a minimum $50-dollar surcharge assessed on persons convicted of specific criminal offenses. The program also receives a very small amount of revenue through interest, restitution, subrogation, and donations.
Our analysis indicates that 76 percent of the CVCC budget is used to either compensate victims or support victim assistance services. The remaining 24 percent is allocated to administrative expenses. The administrative portion supports both the compensation and assistance programs, including expenses associated with a commission and board, as well as rent for an office outside the state complex. Because federal support for administration is limited to five percent, surcharges bear most of the administrative costs.
One of the purposes of VOCA funding is to encourage cooperation with the criminal justice system. CVCC receives two separate federal VOCA grants: one to support its compensation program and another to support its victim assistance program. Federal VOCA guidelines require that these monies supplement, not supplant, state resources, but give states considerable flexibility in establishing the specifics about the two programs.
Finally, CVCC is administering a three-year AmeriCorps grant that totals $215,546 in the current year. These funds are restricted to paying for AmeriCorps volunteers' living allowances, health care, day care if needed, and educational awards. The AmeriCorps coordinator is also paid from these funds.
Compensation Program. The purpose of CVCC's compensation program is to help victims pay expenses directly related to the injuries they received as a result of violent crimes. Wyoming's Commission meets quarterly to determine all matters relating to claims for compensation from victims who have suffered personal injuries, or from dependents of victims who have been killed as a result of criminal acts. Because CVCC is the payer of last resort, all other avenues available for the victim to seek reimbursement must be exhausted before the Commission will reimburse expenses.
Between July 1994 and June 1995, the Commission received 358 claims for compensation. During the same period, the Commission approved 227 awards totaling $293,430; by statute, the maximum award available to a victim or dependent may not exceed $10,000. Awards were paid from surcharge funds supplemented by a $91,000 VOCA compensation grant.
Assistance Program. The CVCC assistance program supports local and state-level organizations in enhancing their responsiveness to victims of crime by providing assistance through all levels of the criminal justice system.
To make allocation determinations, statutes allow the Commission to appoint a three-member panel, the Crime Victims' Assistance Board. The Board awards competitive grants to such organizations as family violence programs, local law enforcement offices, and prosecutors' offices. These local providers offer direct crisis intervention services, information on victim rights, employer and creditor intervention services, assistance with the criminal justice system, guidance in obtaining restitution and compensation, and protection from harassment or intimidation.
In FY 97, federal VOCA funding for assistance programs is $409,000. Of this amount, $388,550 has been allocated to 28 local providers, with the balance going toward administrative costs. Additionally, CVCC used $62,150 from surcharge revenues to assist six local programs. Due to the collection of a major fine at the federal level, the amount of the FY 98 VOCA assistance grant will increase to $1,166,000.
STOP Violence Against Women Grant Program. The Attorney General's Office is also responsible for administering the federal STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grants Program. STOP grant funds must be used for developing and strengthening effective law enforcement and prosecution strategies and victim services to cases involving violent crimes against women.
Through a competitive application process, STOP grant funds are further subgranted to agencies, offices, and programs to carry out a range of purposes specified by the act. Among these are: developing or enhancing victim service programs; developing and implementing more effective police and prosecution policies and protocols; and developing or expanding communication and data collection systems to identify and track perpetrators of crimes against women.
Wyoming was awarded $426,364 for FY 95, and may apply for and receive up to $660,000 in FY 96 and $689,000 in FY 97. The Attorney General appoints an advisory board to make the award decisions. States must certify that a minimum of 25 percent of each year's award will be allocated to each of the following areas: prosecution, law enforcement, and victim services.
Victim Notification Program. The Department of Corrections is charged with administering the Victim Notification Program. The sole staff position, a notification coordinator, is responsible for tracking offenders and victims as well as reporting on offender status to victims. Victims, key witnesses, offices of prosecutors, victim service providers, and advocates may be provided key written information regarding the status of offenders as designated in statutes. During FY 95, a total of 2,555 letters were sent to notify victims of new inmate arrivals, status changes, and Parole Board hearings.
For the current biennium, surcharge funds amounting to $74,453 were transferred to Corrections to support this program. The function is located within Corrections in order to maintain the necessary legal authority to access and release prisoner information.
During the past three and a half years, Wyoming has studied its crime victim services programs several times. In 1993, Legislative Task Force Number Three, developed under Senate File 163, explored the possibility of consolidating services provided by the family violence and crime victim compensation programs. Task Force Number Three identified a need to develop a consolidated funding mechanism for family violence, sexual assault, and crime victim compensation programs at the administrative level.
In 1994, the Wyoming Department of Health and Attorney General's Office commissioned and paid for a $50,000 study to be guided by a newly appointed task force. The consultants evaluated victim service planning, administration, and delivery in Wyoming, and developed a comprehensive plan. Their 255-page report, "Preparing for the 21st Century," was released in September 1994 to the new task force and contained 150 recommendations for system improvements.
The report's first recommendation was that CVCC and FV/SA be consolidated into one agency called the State Office of Victim Assistance, and that the Office be placed under the Attorney General. The report recommended the development of a "mission statement that incorporates crime victims as the agency's underlying concern, with all programs, policies, and funding planned and implemented to improve and expand the delivery of quality victim services."
Subsequently, a steering committee proposed a number of alternatives to carry out consolidation. Consistent with the consultants' recommendations, these options generally called for new positions and therefore necessitated additional resources. However, there was disagreement among steering committee members over issues of staffing and funding, and by late 1996, the impetus for achieving consolidation appears to have faded.
Collectively, these programs spend more than $8 million per biennium for services and compensation awards that touch thousands of lives. It is in this context that the Management Audit Committee requested a legislative analysis of program options, focusing on the following public policy issue: Does the state-level structure facilitate efficient administration and the development of coordinated policy for victim services?
In Wyoming, responsibility for furnishing services to victims of crime is fragmented among several state agencies and numerous community-based providers operating in every county. Consequently, the state lacks an effective administrative structure to coordinate the actions of policy makers and service delivery entities within this system.
This fragmentation and lack of coordination can cause hardship for direct service providers. Some are unhappy with the amount of time and paperwork required to obtain necessary funding from multiple sources. Others express concerns about the fairness of certain resource allocation decisions. Although most seem somewhat satisfied that current services help victims, there is a commonly held view that lack of coordination at the state level is a significant obstacle to further development of quality victim services. These problems have been identified by prior studies, but executive branch managers have yet to resolve them.
Depending on the type of crime involved, victim assistance is available from some 49 local family violence or victim/witness programs operating throughout the state [Appendix B]. While most are specialized programs offering either family violence or victim/witness services, six provide both types of service.
Each county has a family violence program to provide confidential advice and assistance, shelter, and referrals specifically for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. In all but two counties, there are also victim/witness coordinators who provide assistance to victims of all types of crime. Such programs are typically located in the offices of a county or district attorney or law enforcement agency.
Funding to support victim services is derived from a complicated patchwork of federal, state, local, and private sources. We identified at least 13 different sources of support for programs that offer victim assistance and compensation [Appendix C]. We estimated the combined total revenues from these sources will exceed $8 million for the current biennium. In addition, volunteers have donated thousands of hours of time. In many cases, community-based direct service providers depend on multiple sources to cover the costs of their programs. Wyoming's fragmented structure for administering these funds makes it difficult for many providers who must prepare multiple grant applications and performance reports.
In addition, numerous decision-making bodies are involved in the allocation of available resources. Each of the following state-level independent entities has authority over significant parts of the victim service system:
In addition, there are numerous decision-making and funding authorities at the local level:
Because responsibility for the major sources of funds for community victim service programs is split between the FV/SA office and CVCC, a dual and somewhat overlapping system of monitoring and reporting has developed. This especially affects the state's family violence centers, since most of these programs receive support from both agencies.
Under the current structure, community programs are required to fill out two sets of grant applications, provide regular performance information for both, and submit to two oversight inspections. Some of the program directors view this process as an unnecessary and burdensome exercise that takes away from the time they can spend helping victims. They note that most of their programs are operated by one- or two-person staffs. Providers believe that less paperwork would translate into more interaction with victims.
Authors of the consultant report "Victim Services in the 21st Century" believed that an overall goal of consolidation must be to reduce the demands placed on local programs, which currently are required to track a multitude of data for two separate agencies. Although the grants involved each have their own distinct requirements, program purposes are closely related. They noted that up to 75 percent of the information required by the two agencies for their separate grant applications was duplicative. The consultants urged the two programs to explore ways to reduce dual reporting and record keeping requirements under consolidation.
In addition, a number of local providers also claim that CVCC's grant application process is too extensive. Several family violence program directors stated they were only eligible for a $6,000 per year grant from CVCC, yet it took between 60 and 80 hours to complete the application, even after attending a two-day training session to clarify the form. One provider related that her community's grants administrator said the VOCA grant was the most difficult application of all grants to complete. We did not verify the accuracy of these assertions, and CVCC disagrees with them. Nevertheless, these concerns were persistent themes among some local program providers we contacted.
Many providers we interviewed believe that CVCC's interpretation of federal requirements has made the grant provisions more stringent than what the federal program mandates. However, one provider who agreed with this viewpoint also noted that the rigorous application and reporting processes had resulted in improved victim services.
State-level administrative costs may be higher than necessary because of the expenses associated with operating two separate agencies, each with its own administrative overhead. In addition to the cost of two managers, both agencies require basic support services such as phone lines, computers, office supplies, travel, personnel, and training. The "21st Century Report" also noted duplication between the FV/SA office and CVCC in the following areas of local program oversight:
The two program managers disagree on the question of whether administrative cost savings may be possible under a consolidated management approach. The FV/SA program manager acknowledges that savings may be possible if both programs adhere to minimum federal requirements. On the other hand, the CVCC manger feels strongly that additional resources would be necessary to consolidate the programs, and sees no realistic prospects for significant long-term cost savings.
To shed some light on this question, we interviewed one of the architects of state government reorganization, which occurred during the late 1980s. According to this source, administrative consolidation resulted in more even work flows, additional time for overworked staff in very small agencies, opportunities for cross training to improve coverage, and improved career ladders. Consolidation also provides opportunities to reduce overall travel and training costs.
Over the years, structures were set up to administer the various victim assistance funds as these monies became available from the state and federal governments. This evolution resulted in a fragmented state-level administration with no overall decision-making authority. CVCC. Wyoming statutes give the Commission authority to employ the administrative staff necessary to carry out assigned functions. As a result, the Attorney General lacks programmatic oversight and authority to make staffing decisions for CVCC. The Governor has authority only to appoint and remove Commission members. The fact that the agency is located in an office outside the state complex and does not depend upon General Funds for its operation also appears to have contributed to a "free-standing" self-perception. While CVCC believes this structure contributes to their objectivity, it may also create isolation from other related programs.
The current administrative structure may have contributed to the perception we encountered that the Commission-appointed Board is too far removed from the Governor's or the Attorney General's oversight to have such large authority to allocate funding. This approach to administering federal VOCA funds tends to separate the Board from other state efforts to serve victims. The Board reports having made efforts to involve interested parties when determining a strategy for allocating these funds. However, it has not created a formal process that ensures ongoing input from the full spectrum of interested parties.
Family Violence/Sexual Assault. The FV/SA Office is located, both structurally and physically, within the Health's Division of Behavioral Health. Nevertheless, this administrative arrangement also has critics. We heard comments from service providers that the office was merely a "stepchild" at Health and that the division's focus was on mental health, not family violence services. Another provider felt that the office lacked administrative accountability because the program manager is empowered to make decisions without the oversight of a board or commission. At the same time, however, there was also concern that the leadership of the coalition played too large a role in influencing state office decisions.
STOP Violence Against Women Grants. The Attorney General appointed an ad hoc advisory committee to assist in the allocation of the initial round of grants. That process engendered criticism from some quarters, so the Attorney General refined the process by gathering together a large group of interested parties to plan how subsequent grant funds will be allocated. This group currently includes representatives from law enforcement, prosecutors, family violence service providers, victim/witness coordinators, CVCC, FV/SA, and others.
The allocation of federal VOCA assistance funds has been a particularly contentious issue among some state victim service administrators and providers. During the initial years of this grant, from 1986 through 1989, federal guidelines targeted this money only to victims of sexual assault, spousal abuse, and child abuse. Accordingly, the FV/SA office, under an agreement with CVCC, distributed these grant funds entirely to family violence programs.
In response to later VOCA amendments, federal guidelines added the requirement that "previously underserved" victim groups benefit from at least ten percent of these funds. At approximately the same time, the Wyoming Legislature enacted the Victim and Witness Bill of Rights. This legislation requires the criminal justice system to accord victims certain rights from the initial crime report through the post-conviction phase. Other statutory changes created the Victim Assistance Board within CVCC and called for victim assistance services in every county, as funds permit. CVCC took back administration of VOCA funds and the Board later established a competitive process for funding.
At the same time frame these changes were occurring, FY 89 to FY 97, the amount of the state's VOCA grants increased from $161,000 to $409,000. However, as a result of the statutory and administrative changes described above, the percent going to family violence centers has decreased from 100 percent to less than 25 percent. Statutes exempt CVCC from following the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act in developing its rules and regulations. Thus, CVCC was not required to go through a formal public input process that might have fostered understanding and built support for this shift in funding.
The competition for funding in Wyoming mirrors a nationwide problem and has roots in a basic philosophical difference between the two approaches to providing victim services. To summarize, the CVCC goal is to provide services, especially those enumerated in the Victims Bill of Rights, to victims of all crimes, and to encourage victims to cooperate with the criminal justice system. The family violence approach is to provide services to specific groups of victims and to inform them of their options, only one of which is participating in the criminal justice system.
Nearly all of those interviewed for this report appreciated the value of both approaches. Service providers in communities with both a victim/witness coordinator and a family violence program seemed clear on the distinctions in services and comfortable referring victims to one another. However, they said the state system requiring providers to compete for resources does not facilitate coordination at the local level. Furthermore, it appears the local coordination that does occur happens despite state-level administrative fragmentation.
The guidelines accompanying the federal victim assistance funds administered by the state encourage coordination of related programs. Guidelines for two of the federal grants require coordination at the state level. VOCA guidelines put that responsibility at the local level but encourage states to coordinate their VOCA assistance and compensation activities. All of the federal guidelines offer substantial flexibility in the administration of these funds, so states can determine how best to accomplish this coordination.
Currently, Wyoming receives national praise as a model for combining the administration of both the VOCA compensation and assistance programs. CVCC requires that local entities applying for funding formalize the coordination of area victim services through cooperative agreements included in the grant application. At the local level, Sheridan and Washakie Counties have merged their family violence and victim/witness programs, and appear to provide models for a coordinated approach to victim services.
Consolidation at the State Level. The "21st Century Report" noted that other states are struggling with issues of coordination of victim services programs. The report identified two states, Minnesota and Iowa, which have streamlined their administration of victim services by consolidating at the state level. Minnesota, which operates a consolidated compensation and services program under the Department of Corrections, has found that the consolidated approach facilitates service to rural areas. Moreover, in neither state did state-level consolidation require consolidation at the local level.
The consultants concluded that state-level consolidation would offer several advantages. These include opportunities for improved communication and training, and for administrators and staff to stay better informed about the needs of each distinct victim constituency. The report also noted that the greatest impact on local programs would be the expected reduction in paperwork, record keeping, and statistical reporting.
A lack of overall authority to administer victim services has hampered executive branch efforts to resolve these problems, and has blocked development of a comprehensive state policy regarding victim services. A voluntary coordination effort has sprung up within the Attorney General's Office, but its focus is on just one of the sources of funding (federal STOP grants). This is an admirable first step toward coordination. However, we believe agreements made in this context are unlikely to guide the program philosophies and alter the future expenditure decisions of CVCC and FV/SA.
There is some urgency for developing a consistent, over-arching state plan for victim services. Federal funding for this purpose has been increasing in recent years and shows no signs of diminishing. To make optimum use of these funds, and to position Wyoming's victim service efforts for the future, will require more than the current loosely organized structure.
We identified several issues that will likely need to be resolved:
The rebalancing of the criminal justice system to include the perspectives of victims is still a new and evolving process. Undoubtedly, significant progress has occurred since this movement began in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Advocates have launched programs and provided services to victims that were only imagined a few years ago. However, it is apparent that Wyoming's system is suffering from growing pains. At this time, a systems change is needed to prepare the state to meet the challenges of the future.
An administrative consolidation would result in a single overall authority in charge of victim services at the state level, speaking as a single voice. The purpose of such a change would be to support and enhance the ability of state and local programs to provide services to victims. Such a structure promises improved managerial efficiency and would promote greater accountability than is currently the case with the state's fragmented approach.
There are a number of alternative configurations to consider. The Attorney General's Office is one of the most frequent options used by other states. CVCC is already located within this agency and additionally, the federal STOP grants are administered there. The major piece of the system that would need to be moved under this option is the FV/SA office, currently housed within Health. However, should the Legislature wish to adopt this approach, it should also consider whether to preserve or modify the relative autonomy of CVCC: the Commission, Board, and staff.
Other options for consolidation that have been discussed in the past include either the Department of Health or the Department of Family Services. Also, some states have housed victim service agencies within their corrections agencies, and Wyoming already has a victim notification program located in Corrections. Any of these could be workable alternatives.
In fact, the actual location may not be the critical consideration. The most significant consideration would likely prove to be the potential advantages of having a single program with the authority and responsibility to provide quality services to victims of crime.
In recent years, there has been considerable discussion of how best to administer victim services in Wyoming. This question has been researched and analyzed by a task force authorized under Senate File 163, a private consultant hired by Health and CVCC, and now by the Legislative Service Office. Even though many of those involved see advantages to structural changes, executive branch managers have been unable to reach a strong enough consensus to allow this to occur through communication and informal coordination.
The issue of an effective governance structure requires legislative direction. It is so fundamental an issue that until resolved, a cohesive approach to victim services is unlikely to emerge, and the chances for miscommunication between programs, overlap in services, and ineffective use of resources will remain. To clear the way for further development of effective services to victims, this report calls on the Legislature to consider a consolidated management structure. A new synergy may result.
(Note: Selected appendices appear below. Other appendices are available with the report, which is on file at the Legislative Service Office.)
STATE AND FEDERAL SOURCES:
(Note: The Department of Health's response appears below. Responses from the Crime Victims' Compensation Commission and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault are available with the report, which is on file at the Legislative Service Office.)
Senator Hank Coe, Chairman, Management Audit Committee
Marilyn J. Patton
Administrator, Division of Behavioral Health
Family Violence/Sexual Assault Program Manager
Response to Victim Service Report
The Department of Health agrees with the recommendation of the Legislative Service Office that the legislature should consider consolidating the state-level administration of victim services.
Furthermore, the major issues concerning the need for consolidation are clearly articulated in the LSO report:
Senator Hank Coe
December 10, 1996
Consolidation would enhance the ability of state and local programs to provide services to victims.
Comments concerning other issues raised in the report follow:
Prior to consolidation taking place, statute changes should be made to assure that the agency in which victim services are placed has administrative responsibility for all victim services including funding and staffing determinations. Legislative guidelines for such administration should mandate the establishment of an Advisory Council, comprised of victim service, criminal justice and allied professionals who are geographically and culturally diverse. This Council should assume the responsibilities of the various Boards, Task Forces, and Commission now in place.
Finally, consolidation will provide one voice for the victims of crime in Wyoming in a coordinated structure.
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