News

New York State sponsors unique training for victim advocates

June 6, 2016 - 12:45pm

Victim Services Academy teaches strategies, techniques to better assist crime victims

For Immediate Release: 6/6/2016

Contact:
Janine Kava | janine.kava@dcjs.ny.gov | (518) 457-8828
Press Office, Office of Victim Services

New York State is offering a unique training program for advocates who work with crime victims, designed to help those professionals better assist individuals who are suffering from the psychological effects of trauma as a result of the crime. The one-of-a-kind training, sponsored by the state Office of Victim Services, also is aimed at allowing advocates and service providers who interact with crime or disaster victims to understand the toll their work can have on their own well-being.

The Office of Victim Services is partnering with the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at the State University of New York at New Paltz, to offer the training at no cost to nearly 160 professionals who work for victim assistance programs funded by OVS. The Institute prepares students and professionals to work with those who have experienced disasters or mass casualty events.

The agency offered two sessions of the four-day Victim Services Academy. Today is the first day of the second session; the first academy session was held in May.

Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin said, “Criminal victimization and particularly mass casualty events can have both long- and short-term impacts on survivors. This training was designed specifically to help advocates understand the range of reactions crime victims can have to trauma, so they can better assist them through the emotional, physical, cognitive, behavioral and even spiritual symptoms that often manifest in the aftermath of disasters. This program is intended to be an opportunity to dive deeper into these difficult and sensitive issues.”

The agency administers more than $43.8 million in state and federal funding that supports 223 programs providing counseling, crisis intervention, advocacy and legal assistance, among other services, to crime victims in every county in the state. Those programs serve approximately 250,000 men, women and children annually.

The Victim Services Academy features classroom instruction, role playing and a review of case studies, all designed to teach advocates the range of common – and uncommon – reactions they can expect from victims, the risk factors that make some individuals more vulnerable than others, such as homelessness or addiction, and the strategies for assisting those victims, including the practice of “Psychological First Aid.” The training also will identify and explore barriers that prevent certain populations, such as the elderly, LGBTQ and individuals with disabilities, from seeking help if they have been victimized.

Another key component of the training is teaching advocates to understand the impact of working with crime victims by exploring burnout, vicarious traumatization and secondary traumatic stress. Advocates will learn to develop a stress management plan and learn strategies for practicing self-care to sustain their own well-being.

Dr. James Halpern, director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at New Paltz, said, “Our goal in developing the Victim Services Academy was to not only educate the participants about how to better help the clients they work with, but to give them opportunities to practice their new skills so they can feel confident when applying them in the field. Their daily work with crime victims is extremely challenging, and I was very impressed by their dedication to learning new ways to support their clients.”

Established in 2004, the Institute for Disaster Mental Health teaches evidence-based disaster mental health interventions to help to prepare students, community members, professionals to care for others following a disaster. The school’s programs include developing and presenting professional trainings in disaster mental health; and research and dissemination on training needs to improve community preparedness. The school also hosts a conference that brings experts in the field to the New Paltz campus annually.

The Office of Victim Services (www.ovs.ny.gov) has a three-tiered mission to provide compensation to innocent victims of crime, fund direct services to crime victims through a network of community-based programs and to advocate for the rights of all innocent victims of crime. For more information about services offered by OVS, including eligibility guidelines and a list of victim assistance programs that provide direct help to crime victims across all 62 counties in New York, visit the agency’s website or call 1-800-247-8035.