Valencia Shelter Services bringing back community-based services

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As Valencia Shelter Services begins its 24th year of providing domestic violence services and outreach to the community, some of its community-based services are making a come back.

According to VSS Executive Director Alexandria Taylor, the organization's youth and adult therapy services were put on hiatus last fall when she came on board.

"Those programs — what we call our community-based services — are coming back," Taylor said.

The children's therapy is broken into two age groups — 4 to 12 and 13 to 17. Taylor said the two sessions are held at the same time, so families with children in both age groups can bring them at the same time.

The adult mental health services can help people with PTSD, substance abuse, depression and any other number of issues, Taylor said.

And those seeking help do not have to be clients with VSS, she added.

"Their problems do not have to be domestic violence related," she said. "But we are finding that many of our clients come in either recovering from something long ago or on the cusp, as well as in the middle of a domestic violence situation. We are serving as many people as we can."

As Valencia County's only domestic violence shelter, Taylor says since she took the executive director position last August, all of the shelter's 17 beds have been full.

Taylor said the decision to suspend those services was made for two reasons: one was to allow the organization to focus on domestic violence services, and the other was to stretch its annual allocation of funds.

Over the last several years, domestic violence units across the state have seen their budget cut by about $5 million, about 12 percent, Taylor said.

Taylor said the organization's most immediate concern is getting domestic violence funding returned to its former level across the state.

"We are funded through CYFD. All the domestic violence units in the state fall under the protective services division," Taylor said. "And the money we get for the year, if we use it six or eight months into the year, we still get the same amount. And our needs are still there.

"We can't say, 'We'll just cut five beds.' We want to serve everyone, but it comes down to a matter of how many we can really serve. It feels good to provide these services and we've been sending out our annual campaign letters. This is why it's so important for people to donate."

Taylor, along with other shelter advocates and directors around the state, are working closely with the New Mexico Coalition Against Domestic Violence to encourage legislators to approve the $1 million in additional funding contained in this year's House Bill 2, the budget bill.

And a common mix-up has spurred Taylor and VSS to form a new partnership to help people get out of domestic violence situations safely.

"People call and I have to explain to them, 'No, we aren't the place to take your dog,'" Taylor says, chuckling.

VSS isn't the shelter for dogs and other pets, so it is forming a partnership with Animal Protection of New Mexico and its Companion Animal Rescue Effort program.

"Many people in domestic violence situations do not want to leave animals behind," she said. "The CARE program will take care of the animals when someone is ready to get to safety."

Taylor said the CARE initiative finds temporary, confidential homes for companion animals such as cats and dogs, as well as livestock such as horses and goats.

According to the APNM brochure on the CARE program, statistics from the Humane Society of the United States show that 20 to 50 percent of domestic violence victims delay leaving abusive homes because they fear their animals will be harmed. The statistics also show that 74 percent of female victims who have an animal companion report that the animal has been threatened, injured or killed by the abuser

Taylor said there is also a strong correlation linking animal abuse to child abuse and domestic violence.

The same brochure cites additional HSUS statistics, which show 87 percent of families reported for child abuse also had an animal abuse reported in the home, and 83 percent of families with a history of animal abuse have been identified by social service agencies as also at risk for child abuse and neglect.

Looking forward, Taylor says VSS will be doing more outreach and community education to help build awareness of domestic violence, pointing out that February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

"We are very good at reacting. I want to get us to a place where we are doing more preventative services, intervening before the violence occurs," Taylor said. "We have to get in front of it. It effects everyone and does not discriminate. We want to make Valencia County a safe place to live."

For those interested in the therapy services offered by VSS, Taylor said the organization accepts all major insurance plans, Medicare and also has a sliding scale for those without insurance.

"We will not deny someone service," she said.

For appointments for adult and youth therapy services, call the VSS office at 565-3100. The offices are located at 303 Luna Ave., Los Lunas.

The shelter service's 24-hour hotline is 864-1383.

There is also information about VSS's programs and the ways the community can help at www.valenciashelterservices.org. Valencia Shelter Services can be found on Facebook and on Twitter as @ValenciaShelter.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.