By Summer Ballentine
A new law meant to make it easier for Missouri crime victims to request financial aid to help pay for medical coverage, counseling and other expenses appears to be working, advocates say.
Only a few months after a legislative overhaul of the program took effect, it is noticeably easier for victims to request such aid, said Katie Dalton, the director of programs and volunteers at the Crime Victim Center, a St. Louis group that helps victims apply for such aid.
Before the changes took effect in August, victims had to submit a notarized application to receive the aid, which can also cover lost wages or other expenses related to crimes committed against them. They’d need to send in official documents and medical paperwork by mail, and hospitals and other physicians were not allowed to do so on their behalf. Furthermore, they were required to report crimes to police within 48 hours and to cooperate with prosecutions that might not occur until years later.
Dalton said the hoops victims had to jump through, on top of the trauma of dwelling on crimes committed against them, sometimes led them to drop their applications altogether.
“They’ll get frustrated and they get confused by all the different people calling them and what they need,” Dalton said. “So they either get denied because they stopped contacting Crime Victims Compensation or because they’ve then said, ‘I’m done, I don’t want to complete this form.'”
Advocates still advise that it can take as many as six months before victims receive financial help, but Dalton said the revamped process has already shaved off time and made it easier for applicants to follow through on their requests.