State lawmakers from L.I. seek mental-health services for crime victims

Originally published in The Long Island Advocate

New York State Sen. Anna Kaplan, a Democrat from Great Neck, and Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, a Democrat from Rockville Centre, unveiled legislation last month that proposes the establishment of a pilot program that could lead to creation of a statewide network of crime victim and trauma survivor recovery centers.

If passed by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, the measure would appropriate $10 million to build five trauma recovery centers, with each receiving $2 million. The centers would offer trauma services, free of charge, to those who have been victims of crimes or abuse and their family members. The goal would be to break cycles of violence by providing people who have been victimized with safe spaces to recover from the psychological harm and trauma that they have experienced.

“If someone is attacked, assaulted, if there’s a violent crime, someone has received physical harm, you go to the doctor and they take care of you from a physical perspective, but what are we doing to help the mental health?” said Sean Collins-Sweeney, Kaplan’s director of communications. “What are we doing to promote the healing of the community who has suffered, and their family as well?”

Both lawmakers are seeking co-sponsors for their measures in their respective legislative houses, as well as budget support to fund the program. The state budget is due April 1.

Possible locations for the trauma recovery centers have not been determined. Kaplan represents the 7th Senate District, which includes communities from Great Neck and Port Washington to Elmont, Westbury and Hicksville. Griffin represents the 21st Assembly District, which comprises Lynbrook, East Rockaway, Rockville Centre, Baldwin and Freeport, among a handful of other communities.

The legislation now sits in committee in both the Senate and Assembly and thus has yet to be voted on by full Legislature.

“It’s not about what’s going on in one community,” said Kevin Brady, legislative counsel to Griffin. “The crime statistics in New York State at large, not just in the city, show that we need to vastly improve support provided for victims of violent crimes and their families.”

Keith Scott, director of education at The Safe Center in Bethpage, supports the effort to build more trauma recovery centers. Currently, The Safe Center, a non-profit organization, is the primary agency that provides trauma services to abuse victims in Nassau County.

“The establishment of a trauma informed center [would] help the residents of Long Island to go to a place to fully heal,” Scott said. “We are limited based on what we can do. With the additional funding we would be able to expand our reach across Long Island.”