Butler County Bar Association pledges $35K to help out domestic violence center
The Butler County Bar Association has pledged $35,500 to an outreach center for domestic violence victims that lost a large grant two months ago.
More money is needed.
Butler's Victim Outreach Intervention Center paid victims' legal fees with the $200,000 grant it had received annually since 2001 from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The bar association cited the center's critical work in its decision to help.
“The loss of funding and the loss of the services of the attorneys would seriously impact the public's access to justice, as well as have an impact on the judicial system,” said Elizabeth A. Smith, the bar association's president.
Last year, lawyers paid by the center represented 315 of the 385 people seeing restraining orders in Butler County.
The coalition's grant expires July 1, but it gave the center $50,000 that runs through September.
“We are searching for other funding sources — foundations, corporations, anyone,” center director Heidi Artman said.
The center, which has an annual budget of about $2 million, gave legal aid to 390 abuse victims last year, Artman said.
Its hot line receives 60 to 80 calls a day.
Artman blamed the loss of the grant, in part, to the coalition's request that applicants begin using law school interns to help victims, and to help people with immigration problems.
Artman said those criteria put the center at a disadvantage because Butler County doesn't have a law school, and few immigrants live there.
The coalition previously said to fund all eligible applicants would require more funding from the General Assembly in the 2015-16 budget.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.