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State cuts child advocate funds

HIC staff

Hubbard County will lose a child abuse advocate unless significant funds are raised by Oct. 1.

Headwaters Intervention Center received a letter in July from the Office of Justice Programs through the state saying funding would be reduced by $20,000. Many other programs throughout the state received similar letters.

Nicole Opsal, Child Abuse Advocate for Headwaters Intervention Center, said kids will be negatively affected without the programs offered through her office.

"These kids need somebody," she said. "We focus on helping kids through tough times in their lives."

Opsal estimates about 2,000 students are served by programs offered through HIC, including anti-bullying presentations, teen dating violence programs, the SAFE Parks program, Kids Connection and the Youth Empowerment Project.

"It's overwhelming to think about these programs going away," she said.

In addition to these programs, Opsal meets with parents and children who are struggling with abuse, drugs and other issues.

"There's such a need in this town for someone to be there for kids in a support role," she said.

In her role as a child advocate Opsal will accompany parents and children when they go to Social Services for an abuse case, for example. She is there to offer support.

The HIC is actively pursuing grants and other funding sources to make up the shortfall.

Without Opsal, HIC will have just two people serving clients in Hubbard County. Becci Leonard, executive director, and Shellie Bates, domestic violence advocate, will take on some of the child advocate's load but many of the programs will go away. Julie Jensen, a domestic violence advocate in Clearwater County, works with Hubbard County as well and said their organization is also facing cuts.

HIC could use volunteers to help with the crisis line or other duties around the office.

For more information or to donate call 732-7413.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561