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Missouri could soon be home to ‘first of its kind’ resource center for abuse victims


A group of anti-abuse organizations in Kansas City are forging ahead with plans to open a “first of its kind” facility in Missouri for victims of child abuse and sexual assault — something organizers say is sorely needed in the state, particularly in urban areas.

The center will serve as a comprehensive place — both “trauma-informed” and “victim-centered” — providing all kinds of services for victims of child or sexual abuse so he or she doesn’t have to navigate or shuffle around between different agencies alone. The center will provide physical and psychological healing services as well as work with investigators for those who choose to report a crime.

“For a survivor of sexual violence, currently they have to make trips all over town. What we hope is that we’d have a medical facility, victim advocates available, counseling available, law enforcement if that’s the path they so choose, all under one roof,” Julie Donelon, president of the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, told The Missouri Times.

Lisa Mizell, chief executive officer of the Child Protection Center, said there are more than 100 similar facilities across the country — pointing to one such center in Omaha, Nebraska, as the “gold standard” — and said she felt Missouri was “a little behind.”

“We need to bring that model to Kansas City so that we’re delivering the best services to the people we serve here in this area,” Mizell told The Missouri Times.

Gov. Mike Parson met with organizers for the facility on Friday and touted the “great meeting” on social media. Organizers praised the governor for seeming to be “excited” about the project.

As of right now, organizers say the facility is under contract on a building in Kansas City and plans to open in the spring of 2021. During this “silent phase,” organizers are asking donors to help support the project and are hoping the Missouri Development Finance Board will approve a 50 percent tax credits for donors to receive to “maximize the gifts that are given to us for this project.”

“Those tax credits help spur investment in the project and can facilitate large gifts if those tax credits are available,” Donelon said.

Services at the center would be free of charge to victims who seek help.

“It all comes down to managing trauma in a healthy way,” said Mizell. “Kids in particular, if you’re not giving them the tools and their families the tools they need to approach that trauma and learn how to cope with it and move forward, then you’re really doing the entire society a disservice because you’re not helping that person maximize their potential.”

“Being able to offer a service that engages them in a system that’s easy for them to access, will be the first step, I think, in really effectively dealing with their trauma,” she said.