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Olmsted County is celebrating National County Government Month (NCGM) in April. We will share how we are "Connecting the Unconnected," demonstrating how counties deliver people-centered services and connect communities.
One example is by providing resources for education, prevention, and empowerment to individuals, families, and communities impacted by crime.
For victims of crime who reside in Dodge, Fillmore or Olmsted (DFO) counties, the Victim Services team has been connecting the unconnected for more than 40 years. Today, more than 60 volunteers staff a crisis line 24/7 to assist victims of crime at their time of need, with 12 staff who provide specific expertise in supporting approximately 400 victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and other violent crimes each year. The Victim Services team is one of the few such teams in the state that is embedded in the county system. The team frequently partners locally with public safety, the Mayo Clinic and others and is a trusted resource.
Victim Services not only helps victims of crime when it occurs but is also a leader in prevention through a robust and consistent collaboration with schools in the region. Last year, more than 16,500 students received prevention messages through more than 400 presentations at local K-12 schools and colleges. "A typical student will see us multiple times throughout their schooling and by the time they reach 10th grade, almost the whole class will recognize us" according to Neil Dennison, Violence Prevention and Volunteer Coordinator. Through several programs that enhance what schools already do and focus on topics such as dating and healthy masculinity, the information is shared at one-time events or to specific groups over multiple sessions. Sometimes the presentations lead to students feeling empowered to safely disclose that they have been a victim.
Since 2014 Victim Services has hosted the regional effort of 12 counties in a Safe Harbor program sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Health. More than 400 victims of sex trafficking have been helped through this program and approximately 17,000 providers have been trained to recognize the need and connect victims of sex trafficking to safe harbor resources.
"We are proud of our survivor empowerment approach" said Laura Sutherland, Program Manager. Through important partnerships with survivors, the stories of their experiences have the most impact on others to help prevent future victims.
If you or someone you know needs help or would like to schedule a presentation, please contact the crisis line at 507 289-0636. For more information or to schedule a presentation, please visit the Olmsted County website.
Olmsted County is proud of the work that Victim Services does to connect the unconnected.
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