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Senator Roy Blunt discusses child abuse legislation in Joplin - KOAM TV 7

Senator Roy Blunt discusses child abuse legislation in Joplin

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Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri is traveling across the state to help raise support for the "Victims of Child Abuse Act" (VOCAA), which would impact local child advocacy centers.

The Children's Center of Southwest Missouri has four locations in Butler, Joplin, Monett and Nevada, Missouri. All locations rely heavily on funding to continue helping child abuse victims.

"What the funding would do is allow us to continue having child advocates and forensic interviewers," said Dean Dankelson, Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney. "Whenever there is an allegation of sexual abuse, we need someone who is specially trained to know how to talk to children and not be suggestive in leading and putting ideas in their heads."

US Senator Roy Blunt says the Victim of Child Abuse Act will serve these children and help law enforcement to hold perpetrators accountable.

"The way this act works is that there is an amount of federal funding that is divided up on a per capita basis among the states," Blunt said. "This location would apply to the state with an idea of what they would like to do. It might be increasing the size of the building, it might be the new equipment, etc."

Blunt sat down today with local prosecutors, law enforcement officials and other child advocates to discuss how this legislation could benefit them.

"People don't realize that for law enforcement or mental health that a lot of expenses are made over time because these victims have a lot of issues," said Deputy Sheriff Steven Douglas of Newton County. "They may offend with criminal matters later on, or with health issues later on, if we can intervene early in their life, it really does save a lot of money."

The four Children's Center locations have seen more than 1,000 kids in the past year. While that number does seem alarming, there is a silver lining.

"it's very positive that the number is high because it means that those children are receiving the services that they need," said Kathi Olson, Executive Director of Children's Center.

Blunt is also raising support for the Excellence in Mental Health Act, which will expand access to community mental health centers, services needed by both abusers and victims of child abuse.

"Both, a place for someone with a mental health problem as an abuser to go and try to deal with that before they affect the lives of others, or for someone who has been the victim to have a place to go that is more comfortable, more convenient, affordable," Blunt said. "Those things will make a big difference."

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