At Vinton Town Council meeting: Victim’s advocate program proves beneficial to area

Published 9:03 am Saturday, August 21, 2021

David Duplechain, with the Family and Youth Counseling Agency, told Vinton officials and council members at the August 17 meeting about the state-funded victim’s advocate program.

“We had three goals when we started the program,” Duplechain said, “improve services to victims, free detectives up to do police work and improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

The advocate calls and checks on the victim on behalf of the police department.

He or she answers questions and asks questions to ascertain the victims’ needs, perhaps find out if there is enough food on the table, or give direction on where the victim and family members can go to sign up for Medicaid.

“We don’t provide those services, but we can make referrals,” Duplechain said.

These advocates can make counseling recommendations for instance, services that are free of charge.

The advocate explains the criminal justice process to the victim and might accompany the victim to the forensic interview.

This person may do something as simple as calling to tell the victim the court date has changed so they don’t miss a day of work.

“We’ve got a good justice system,” Duplechain said, “but it does take a long time to get through. I testified in a trial post-COVID that I had done interviews on five years ago.

“So just having someone to check on the victim, even if it’s only quarterly to see how they’re doing is vital.”

The only “cost” to the town of Vinton is supplying a desk and phone line to the victim’s advocate when the advocate works in Vinton.

A grant funds the victim’s advocate salary and benefits.

“Everyone has embraced the program,” Duplechain said, “but I will say that Chief Spell saw the benefits early on and put those benefits to work in a unique way.”

From January 2017 to June 2021, the victim advocate, who also works in Westlake, DeQuincy and Iowa, has worked with 108 victims in Vinton. Most of these individuals have been victims of domestic violence.

The next largest groups are adult physical assault victims and then child physical and sexual abuse.

“We are very thankful that you as a community allow us to do this,” Duplechain said. “I know it’s been beneficial. This particular example I want to give you is not a Vinton case, but I do hope this puts into perspective what we’re doing.

“I had a man walk in to visit with a victim advocate. He had two documents and he handed them to the advocate and asked do you know what these are? She said, yes sir, that’s a protective order and a death certificate. He said that is the protective order and the death certificate of my oldest daughter. We got a protective order and the abuser still killed her. Now you’re working with my youngest daughter who is a victim of domestic violence and I have to wonder if the outcome of my oldest daughter would have been different if you had been working with her.”

Family and Youth Counseling Agency provides counseling for family, groups and individuals. Professionals conduct interviews with children and CASA volunteers advocate for children in foster care.

FYCA also offers a teen program. To find out more, go to https://fyca.org or call (337) 436-9533.

Vinton FD will defer COVID calls

In the town of Vinton, firefighters volunteer their time to promote fire safety, save lives and property.

Because of the locations of their trucks, they may be the first to respond to an auto accident with injuries. They also respond to medical emergencies, for instance a heart attack.

However, at the August 17 meeting, Fire Chief Chris Fox informed Vinton Mayor Marcus Renfrow and Town Council members that the fire department would defer calls that are confirmed or possible COVID cases.

“Our primary mission is not medical calls,” Fire Chief Chris Fox said. “We do that to help our citizens.

“But we can’t risk jeopardizing the health of our firefighters to the extent that we don’t have the manpower to respond to a fire.”