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Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre says new funding falls short

Red Deer-based non-profit will get only about two per cent of $4.2 million in new funding

Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre will receive nearly $100,000 of the additional $4.2 million pledged Thursday by the province to support victims of sexual violence.

While any additional funding is helpful, the money falls far short of what is needed to effectively run the centre in Red Deer, which serves a population of 400,000 and provides a 24/7 crisis line, said executive director Patricia Arango on Thursday.

In announcing the funding, Tanya Fir, parliamentary secretary for Status of Women, said $3.8 million in funding is earmarked for reducing wait lists and $400,000 will go to a “new service model to provide survivors who are waiting for services with resources, supports and information to address their individual needs and situation.”

Arango said she and her staff have done their best to ensure the centre does not build up long wait lists, although it has become more challenging recently.

“My goal is to provide service when people need it, not in 20 months,” she said.

She feels with an allocation of $96,170 the centre is almost being penalized for its efforts to provide good — and most importantly — timely service. It is among the lower amounts provided to centres and represents a little over two per cent of the total amount of new funding.

Arango said at least another $300,000 is needed on top of its $1.8 million budget to provide reasonable compensation for the 16 full-time and 15 part-time staff, as well as another seven health professionals who largely donate their time to help the centre’s clients.

“The salary we pay for therapists is very, very low,” she said, adding that makes it difficult to retain staff. From December to March, they had six people resign.

“That is a problem because I see the increase on our wait lists … which is very concerning because that is not the way we work.”

Most of the non-profit’s revenues come from a $1.08 million grant from Community and Social Services, which has stayed the same for the past three years. Smaller amounts are received from a victim services fund and Alberta Health. Those contributions have also been frozen during a time when inflation was hitting six per cent.

About 200 victims of sexual assault are walking through the centre’s doors for therapy each month. As well the crisis line receives an average of 250 calls per month.

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Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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