Grant covers counseling costs for crime victims

FARGO – Crime victims who may not have qualified for mental-health assistance in the past may now be able to pay for therapy costs under a new grant program at Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota.

The state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has awarded a $25,000 Victims of Crime Act grant to the statewide agency to help cover therapy fees and associated expenses for victims who seek mental-health support through Abound Counseling at LSSND.

Although North Dakota already has a Crime Victims Compensation Program, the VOCA grant will expand services for people who may not qualify for CVCP assistance. The CVCP contains more requirements to qualify, such as requiring the claim for compensation be filed within a year after the event and the injurious conduct be reported to law enforcement within a specific time period.

“Having this fund means that people won’t have to choose between getting the therapy they need and putting food on the table. It means that the emotional recovery from a crime can be a priority,” says Terri Sonsthagen Burns, an intake coordinator for the VOCA program at LSSND.

The VOCA grant broadens the definition of who qualifies as a victim to include: physical harm, bullying or harassment (face-to-face and electronic), child abuse, community violence, domestic violence, neglect (child and vulnerable/elderly adults), persecution due to factors like race and sexual orientation, property crimes, sexual assault, and torture or other crimes against humanity.

Victims can be self-referred or referred by a third party, such as a social worker. If approved for coverage, the VOCA grant will pay for any remaining costs after the client’s primary insurance coverage has been depleted. The grant may also help the uninsured or underinsured.

Once enrolled, rural residents can receive face-to-face counseling at an Abound office near them or use Abound’s secure telehealth option via a computer, laptop or mobile device. Some grant money is also available for related expenses such as Imagine Thriving Skills Coaches, who work one-on-one with clients to help them strengthen functions impacted by past trauma or mental illness. Funds also are available to pay for interpreter services for non-English-speaking clients.

To learn more, call 271-1618 or email terrib@lssnd.org or Kristinaj@lssnd.org.