MARSHALL - The New Horizons Crisis Center in Marshall has found itself a victim of state budget cuts.
The unexpected cuts from the non-proift's main funding source, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) of Minnesota, amount to $83,596, starting Oct. 1, 2012, and will decrease the center's workforce by 25 percent. Also, no funds were awarded for abused children services, the center said.
"Simply put, it's devastating," said NHCC Executive Director Jennifer Bruns. "It's the worst cut we've received in 31 years. We were in shock. We knew OJP had less money to fund, but we didn't realize what it would look like in southwest Minnesota. But we're still gonna be here to provide great services to the people of our communities."
NHCC provides services and support for crime victims, advocacy for families, and educational programs in Lincoln, Lyon, Murray and Redwood counties.
One of the programs that will feel the sting of the cuts is child services. NHCC served more than 230 victims of child abuse last year - a 26 percent bump from 2009. The center has had an abused children program for 18 years. The program has included 347 presentations to more than 12,000 participants, ranging from personal body safety to bullying issues.
The agency's budget for fiscal year 2012 devoted 73 percent of its expenses to staff and the remaining 27 percent to support operating costs.
NHCC has been very active in area schools with its presentations and has done so at no cost. Now, however, the agency will have no choice but to charge for them.
"We'll still provide those services through the general crime and sexual assault program because we have prioritized needing to provide those services to kids," Bruns said. "We've always provided those free of cost to schools, to daycares, to the community; without having those funds, we're gonna have to start charging for those presentations."
The cuts also mean office hours at the agency's office at Southwest Minnesota State University will also be limited to no more than eight scheduled hours per week during the school year, the center said.
The center currently has a full-time program director with staff on campus.
"We know during those college years that students are really vulnerable to victimization, especially college women, and having a person on campus that students can go to is such an asset to the campus community," Bruns said. "Those victims can still come to our offices, but that's going to be hard because accessibility can be very difficult."
NHCC has employed a staff person on campus for the past 12 years.
In an email to grantees, Jeri Boisvert, executive director of OJP, said, "I truly regret that some of you received the very discouraging news that your organization was not selected for funding or your award was reduced. Unfortunately, OJP had $1,500,000 less to award this yearThe total amount requested was over $39,000,000 and OJP had approximately $30,000,000 to award."
Bruns said NHCC will brainstorm its options for raising money in the future, as far as looking for donations, seeking additional grants and perhaps reaching out to SMSU so it can continue to have a strong on-campus presence. Bruns said the reality of budget cuts makes the center appreciate even more the contributions it has received from organizations like the Otto Bremer Foundation, Southwest Health and Human Services and the United Way.
"We'll really be looking at trying to squeeze every penny we can out of every dollar," Bruns said. "It's a hard time right now because this was a state grant, and when you're working in the non-profit world, usually when the state has cuts, other places feel the hurt, too. There's just less money everywhere."
Services for victims will still be offered at the agency's main office in Marshall, at the Murray County office in Slayton, and at the Redwood County office in Redwood Falls.
"This will be a change, and change can be a challenge, but we will get through this," Marie Meyers, NHCC Board chairperson, said.