General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Warwick) are seeking to expand Rhode Island's Crime Victim Compensation Program (CVCP) to include support for minors who witness homicides or domestic violence.
"In our state, it is estimated that children are present for 35% of domestic violence arrests. I strongly believe that children who witness violent crime are, themselves, victims of that crime," said Rhode Island Treasurer Seth Magaziner. "Expanding Treasury's Crime Victim Compensation is a common-sense step to help the most vulnerable Rhode Islanders."
House Bill No. 5452 –which is scheduled to be voted on by the House Judiciary Committee this evening– would allow parents and guardians to apply to Rhode Island's Crime Victim Compensation Program for reimbursement for expenses related to psychiatric care and mental health counseling for underage witnesses.
"Rhode Islanders are fortunate to have a program that helps victims recover from the emotional and physical toll of violent crime without the added pain of financial hardship," said Leader Shekarchi, the bill's sponsor. "This legislation provides support for children whose needs should no longer be allowed to go unrecognized or unaddressed."
This legislation limits reimbursement expenses related to psychiatric care and mental health counseling to $1,500 per minor victim – bringing the amount available for psychiatric care and mental health counseling in line with adult victims. More than twenty states allow minors to seek compensation from their state Crime Victim Compensation Program.
"Children are present for nearly 2,000 domestic violence arrests each year," noted Deborah DeBare, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "Children who witness domestic violence can face serious long-term health consequences as a result, including increased risk of alcoholism, substance abuse, depression, and PTSD. This bill will help families access critical supportive services for children, build their resiliency, and help break the intergenerational cycle of violence."
Approximately 60% of Crime Victim Compensation Program compensation costs are covered by the US Department of Justice, with the balance typically covered by fees recovered by the Rhode Island Court System. There are sufficient funds currently in the CVCP to cover the expansion of this benefit. The legislation is not expected to have any material impact on the state's general revenue budget.
# # #
About the Crime Victims Compensation Program: Rhode Island's Crime Victim Compensation Program (CVCP) assists victims of violent crime with up to $25,000 toward costs and expenses related to the crime, including medical expenses, dental work, mental health counseling, loss of earnings, funeral costs, relocation, and crime scene cleanup.
Last year the program reimbursed more than $1.4 million to more than 600 Rhode Islanders who suffered financial loss as the result of a violent crime. Victims can learn more about the program by visiting: www.RICVCP.com