Mental Health Services are a Vital Resource for Victims of Crime
By Robin Foemmel Bie, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and CalVCP Manager
While broken bones can be set and lacerations can be stitched up, other serious consequences of violent crime are often invisible. That is why the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) seeks to actively address the mental health needs of crime victims.
CalVCP provided $23.5 million in assistance for the mental health treatment of victims of violent crime during fiscal year 2011-12, one-third of the total compensation provided by the program’s Restitution Fund. (Medical treatments, the fund’s only larger payment category, provided $25.2 million in assistance that year.)
"There is no one-size-fits-all approach for achieving successful mental health outcomes. Individual treatment plans tailored to each victim’s specific needs are most effective."
Eligible CalVCP claimants are able to choose any qualified mental health service provider for treatment. Crime victims are frequently connected with mental health services via victim advocates located at the Victim Witness Assistance Centers that exist across California. Additionally, county departments responsible for services such as child welfare also refer crime victims to mental health professionals, while other victims locate treatment providers through word-of-mouth.
Whatever the initial route of referral, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for achieving successful mental health outcomes. Individual treatment plans tailored to each victim’s specific needs are most effective.
Typically, treatment begins with an intake session, where the therapist documents the claimant’s personal, medical, and mental health history. During the next few sessions the therapist and claimant develop the treatment plan and goals based on the symptoms being experienced by the claimant. Sessions may be individual, family and/or group depending on the course of treatment agreed upon by the claimant and therapist. Treatment plans may be altered as therapy unfolds, and having the right fit between claimant and therapist is optimal.
In January 2013, the deadline for filing a claim with CalVCP was extended from one year after the occurrence of a violent crime to three years. The goal is to enable more victims to obtain assistance for their various post-crime needs. Compared to some physical injuries, mental health problems can manifest more slowly and last longer. The new filing deadline may be especially helpful for claimants suffering from a delayed emotional response to the crime.
CalVCP places high priority on mental health treatment, ensuring that this major — often less obvious — impact of violent crime is not forgotten.