Overcrowding, Staffing Problems Threaten Domestic Violence Efforts

FRANKFORT, KY -- More than 100 requests for help at Kentucky's domestic violence programs went unmet in one day, according to the National Census of Domestic Violence Services, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Saturday edition.

The problem was not enough room or staff for shelters. "A lot of shelters are always full, so there just isn't beds," said Sherry Currens, executive director of the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association.

Some Kentucky shelters already use couches or sleeping bags to serve as many people as possible. Others can't afford enough nighttime staff to provide services for all the people who request them, Currens told the Herald-Leader.

The census, which was released Friday, collected information from across the country on Sept. 25. During that 24 hours, Kentucky's 15 domestic violence programs provided emergency shelter for 570 adults and children and other services -- such as counseling and legal advocacy -- to another 620. The programs also answered 462 phone calls or one every 3 minutes, the newspaper reports.

But 106 requests went unmet. Most of those requests were probably for shelter, Currens said.

The survey could have worse results next year. The federal budget for 2008 cut key sources of funding for domestic violence programs, Currens said. Now Kentucky's programs face budget cuts at the state level, the Herald-Leader reports.

The programs receive approximately $4 million a year from the state's general fund, through the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Gov. Steve Beshear announced this week that he wanted to cut the cabinet's overall budget by more than 1 percent, while increasing money for Medicare. Gwenda Bond, a spokeswoman for the cabinet, said it was too early to tell how domestic violence programs will be affected, according to the Herald-Leader.

Currens says the programs cannot absorb state cuts because the programs have already lost federal funding. "If we lose money, we're going to have to cut services," Currens told the newspaper.

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