(St. Joseph,MO) Changes to the Missouri Crime Victims Compensation Fund are helping more families get connected to the services they need after the loss of a loved one.
Changes from House Bill 1355, revamped the program to provide up to $25,000 in benefits to crime victims and their families to help cover things like funeral costs and grief counseling.
Eric Montegna, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Meierhoffer Funeral Home, said the funeral home offers a seven step program to help families with the grieving process.
“We spend some time helping the families understand what they are going through and what they need to do to address the things that are going to come up in their lives in the first days, weeks, months following a loss,”Montegna said."One of the most important things to remember when you suffer a loss is you don't have to be left alone. Everyone has gone through this at one point in their life and what most people want is to reach out.”
Montegna said funeral costs can vary from what each family wants, but cost shouldn’t keep families from having the funeral they want for their loved one.
“The most important thing that every family needs to know is that we promise everyone in our community that we will never turn a family away if they can’t afford what they want. We will help them find a way to do what they want to honor the life of the loved one to have the funeral they desire and deserve.”
Barbie Ulmer lost her brother Brian Ulmer in 2011 during a home invasion, and said her family used grief counseling to help heal.
"My nieces were present at the time and I know they did go through grief counseling and that did help them," Ulmer said.
Now the state will cover the costs of grief counseling beyond the previous three-year limit.
"It's not a cure-all or an automatic fix, so with them lengthening it past the three years, that's also really helpful because it doesn't just go away with a couple counseling sessions," Ulmer said.
The changes also allow victims who have previously been convicted of a felony to qualify for assistance. However victims who have been convicted of two felony crimes involving drugs or violence within the last decade will not be eligible to receive funding.
“Some people just did bad things when they were younger and they’ve changed their lives around and have become a victim of circumstance and have ended up in another tragedy, due to no fault of their own,” Ulmer said.
The bill also eliminates the requirement for victims to report crimes against them within 48 hours. The changes also allows victims to meet compensation requirements by providing a sworn statement indicating the applicant believes he or she is a victim of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, human trafficking or stalking and fears further violent acts from his or her assailant is now acceptable in lieu of other records.
For individuals or families struggling with the loss of a loved one from any circumstance, Meierhoffer Funeral Home offers several forms of free grief counseling including; 8 week Grief recovery workshops;Grief Drop-In workshops and a children’s grief workshop for children under the age of 15.
Ulmer said the St. Joseph Victims and Families of Violent Crimes group is offering support for those in the community grieving the loss of a loved one to violent crime.
The St. Joseph Victims and Families of Violent Crimes group will host a chili cook-off on January 19 from 12:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the American Tavern to help raise funds for a new crime victims memorial. The chili will be served for $5 and the group will be sponsoring a silent auction, raffle drawing, and darts tournament. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the Victims and Families of Violent Crimes group on Facebook.
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