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StrongHearts Native Helpline Launches Project in Michigan

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by StrongHearts Native Helpline

Expands Accessibility to Native American Domestic Violence Advocacy

StrongHearts Native Helpline is launching a project in Michigan to expand its existing domestic and sexual violence advocacy services to support tribal programs and their contacts in that state. The project — a partnership with the Division of Victim Services at Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, which is also providing the funding — has already begun.

A well-recognized issue throughout tribal domestic violence advocacy and shelter work is that many tribal programs are small with limited staff. Their advocates may need to carry pagers or cell phones at all times in order to respond to victims, resulting in overtime and additional stress. Sometimes, advocates are not able to respond and victims calling after hours are simply advised to call back during office hours, which can create a safety issue for them. This project will give Native American victim-survivors in Michigan access to culturally-appropriate advocacy 24/7 even if they call their local tribal program after regular operating hours.

Michigan Enhancement
“In general, urban Natives are underserved; and this is a cost-effective way for us to expand services to Native American victim-survivors wherever they may live in Michigan and especially in urban areas where we have determined there is a great need,” said Leslie O’Reilly, VOCA program specialist, Division of Victim Services, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “With this new initiative, we will be able to have an efficient infrastructure in place to maintain capacity while we are seeking to expand and provide even more services.”

The project will have three phases. During phase one, StrongHearts will announce the project to tribal programs and establish a Michigan administrative office. Phase two will focus on establishing connections with tribes that have agreed to participate in the project. Phase three will concentrate on sustaining the project into the future.

By opting in, tribal programs will be able to set their after-hours answering service to prompt callers to press one to transfer directly to StrongHearts Native Helpline advocates. StrongHearts advocates will be aware that the call is coming from a tribal program in Michigan, but the call will be completely confidential and anonymous.

“It is important to StrongHearts that our advocates continue to learn best practices for supporting victim-survivors and all Native Americans impacted by sexual and domestic violence,” said Lori Jump (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians), director, StrongHearts Native Helpline. “In this spirit and to ensure victim-survivors receive the best advocacy, StrongHearts asks participating tribal programs to meet with our Michigan based project coordinator to share their best practices, particular needs of their communities, and ensure StrongHearts advocates know the services and support available through their tribal programs.”

“Since 1989 there has been a longstanding commitment by the state of Michigan to reach tribal victims of crime, and there are now 8 out of 12 federally-recognized tribes receiving VOCA grant funding through the Division of Victim Services and additional funding that we can access to meet the needs of tribes,” said O’Reilly. “A very important goal for us is to help meet the needs of underserved Native American communities and, especially, in urban areas. We will now be able to meet this need and reach these communities.”

“Michigan has been a leader in working with tribal nations in that state and is to be commended for its commitment to serving all victim-survivors, no matter where they live,” said Jump.

“Ensuring all survivors have equal and equitable access to victim services is critical in their healing journey,” said Debi Cain, executive director, Division of Victim Services, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “We are proud to partner with StrongHearts Native Helpline on this project that will enhance access to services for Native Americans impacted by sexual and domestic violence throughout Michigan.”

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