MONDAY, JUNE 7, 1999202/307-0703


WASHINGTON, D.C.--Today, in conjunction with the first White House Conference on Mental Health, the Department of Justice is announcing several key initiatives undertaken by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), to improve the response to the mental health needs of crime victims. OVC will fund new research, work with the Department of Health and Human Services to develop crisis response protocols, fund additional training, and help communities better assist victims of violence committed by the mentally ill.

"Many victims, including survivors of prolonged, repeated trauma, such as abused children and battered women, need specialized mental health services to help them begin and continue to heal," said OVC Acting Director Kathryn Turman. "Society is beginning to recognize treating psychological injury is as important as the binding of a wound or the setting of a broken bone, which is why OVC is embarking on these important projects."

Although the rates for many types of crime are declining, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Victimization Survey data, U.S. residents aged 12 or older experienced nearly 35 million crimes in 1997. About 8.6 million of these crimes were violent - including rape, robbery, sexual assault and non-sexual assault.

OVC is forming an innovative new partnership with the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, to improve the quality of mental health services delivered to victims of crime and strengthen linkages between the victim assistance and mental health communities.

This joint initiative will survey the current research and evaluation knowledge on the mental health problems of crime victims and the effectiveness of mental health treatments available to assist victims. The project will identify gaps in the knowledge base and enhance the dissemination and utilization of research findings. Experts in the field will prepare papers on seven key topics.

These papers, together with proceedings from a Symposium on the Mental Health Needs of Crime Victims that will take place in Washington, D.C. on October 7-8, 1999, will be widely distributed to the mental health, victim assistance, and research fields as a series of OVC Bulletins.

The Justice Department is also announcing today a new interagency agreement between OVC and the Center for Mental Health Services, located within the department of Health and Human Services, to support the development of appropriate crisis response capabilities and mobilization protocols, ensuring a rapid, coordinated response to the victims of mass violence and terrorism.

The Oklahoma City bombing, the embassy bombings in Africa, and school violence have shown how important it is for many agencies and organizations at all levels of government to work collaboratively to ensure timely, effective responses to victims and their communities.

OVC will fund a position within the Emergency Services and Disaster Relief Branch (ESDRB) to build on its experience with emergency and disaster crisis counseling. ESDRB will assist federal law enforcement to coordinate its crisis response role with state and local agencies and community service organizations. Training and coordination activities will begin later in the summer.

OVC is also providing a new grant of $110,000 to the Ehrenkranz School of Social Work at New York University (NYU) to assist communities in identifying and serving family and non-family members who are victims of violence committed by people who have a mental illness.

This OVC-funded NYU initiative, which builds on an earlier NYU project looking at the needs of victims through regional focus groups, will develop video and print materials to educate the general public, criminal justice personnel, advocates for the mentally ill and providers from the mental health, victim assistance, and protection and advocacy fields about the issues involved in this type of victimization and to dispel common misconceptions about the type and scope of violence committed by individuals with mental illness. NYU will also provide technical assistance to enable communities to better serve these victims.

Information about other OVC programs, publications and conferences is available through OVC's web site at Information about other bureaus and program offices in the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is available at Media should contact OJP's Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at 202/307-0703.

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OVC 99-130