Crime victims in the region have a new, convenient resource for assistance thanks to an expanded state program that will allow them to register for services, including assistance with legal issues.
The state Office of Victim Services will be able to offer a program, which initially started in western New York, to victims in Warren, Washington, Saratoga, Essex and Hamilton counties, as well as counties to the south in the Hudson Valley.
New York Crime Victims Legal Help offers an online portal to a variety of assistance programs to make life easier for crime victims.
The resource features a user-friendly screening tool that allows crime victims to identify what legal needs they may have and then locate relevant resources. It also provides a searchable legal services help directory with filters to isolate organizations that can assist with specific issues, and a self-help resource library to inform them of their rights.
It also gives access to a “live chat” function to access referral information in real time.
Crime victim advocates and service providers also can use the screening tool and legal help directory to assist victims, and crime victims can connect with Office of Victim Services-funded programs that can provide counseling, shelter and other assistance, in addition to helping them apply for financial assistance from the agency.
“With the continued expansion of this service, more victims will be able to learn about their rights and access local legal resources to help them navigate civil matters involving housing, immigration, family court, social services and more,” Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin said in a news release.
A $1.5 million grant from federal Office for Victims of Crime helped fund the expansion effort.
The state agency received help from the Empire Justice Center, Pro Bono Net and the University at Albany’s Center for Human Services Research to develop the resource, which assists crime victims outside of New York City.
The Office of Victim Services provides assistance to crime victims and/or their family members, helping eligible individuals with medical and counseling expenses, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages and support, in addition to other assistance. The program is funded by fees paid by those who are convicted of crimes.
The agency funds more than 200 victim assistance programs that provide direct services, including counseling, advocacy and legal services, among other help, across the state. For more information, eligibility guidelines and to locate a victim assistance program, visit ovs.ny.gov or call 1-800-247-8035.