Wallowa County will soon have new weapons to fight domestic violence and child abuse, thanks to a $430,000 two-year grant just awarded to the Wallowa County Sheriff's Office by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The application for funding, written by former Safe Harbors director Liza Nichols, was approved by the Office of Justice Programs under the Rural Domestic Violence and Child Victimization Enforcement Discretionary Grants Program, which is designed for rural communities.
"I'm very happy about this grant, and especially excited about the part aimed at helping children," said Wallowa County Sheriff Fred Steen.
The grant will create four project staff positions, all dedicated to domestic violence, dating violence and child victimization cases. One of these positions includes Wallowa County's first-ever deputy district attorney who will work in the Wallowa County District Attorney's office. The other jobs will include a project coordinator/threat assessor and a police investigator, both stationed in the Wallowa County Sheriff's Office, plus a probation officer who will probably work out of the probation office in La Grande. The La Grande office currently handles Wallowa County probation cases and is assigned to domestic violence offenders for both Wallowa and Union counties.
A part-time teen victim's advocate position will also be created, based at Safe Harbors in Enterprise.
In addition to investigation and prosecution to domestic violence/child abuse cases, the team created by this grant will also be involved in public education work in the schools and in the community.
"I'm elated about the 'whole picture', team approach," said county district attorney Dan Ousley. "It provides a coordinated, comprehensive effort to prevent domestic violence and child abuse."
He said that the deputy district attorney in his office, whom he hopes to hire by the first of the year, will not only be involved in the prosecution of cases, but also in the community education effort. "In the end, I hope it results in fewer prosecutions," Ousley said.
With numerous domestic violence-related cases ongoing at any given time in his office, he also said it would free his time for other criminal cases.
The grant was officially presented to the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners for the first time at its Monday meeting for acknowledgment and a request that the grant money be accepted as unanticipated funds into the county budget.
Though it had questions, the board unanimously welcomed the new grant.
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