SHERIDAN — The Wyoming Legislature passed House Bill 45, a bill clarifying crime victim compensation eligibility, Feb. 12, and Gov. Mark Gordon signed the bill into law the same day.
Crime victim compensation is a program through the Wyoming Division of Victim Services that allows a victim — of any crime resulting in injury, medical or counseling costs, loss of employment or wages or any other economic deficit that may have been caused by the crime — to be granted money to help alleviate those expenses.
The bill will give authorization to the DVS to allow additional time for victims to acquire and claim expenses for mental health counseling and care.
The Legislature agreed that compensation may be rewarded to those who have suffered losses because of the crime occurring within a two-year period.
The passing of HB45 allows the division to award a victim one extra year of compensation for mental health counseling.
The law originally allowed victims or dependents of the victims up to $15,000 for medical or mental health expenses related to injury caused by the crime.
Victims are now also eligible for an extra $10,000 awarded by the DVS in case of an injury or counseling that exceeded the $15,000.
The additional compensation can also be used to cover future loss of wages, special medical needs or any other special assistance related to injury from the crime committed. The new bill will also benefit victims who may need more time for counseling or recovery from injury due to a crime.
Sheridan’s legislative representatives Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, Mark Kinner, R-Sheridan, and Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, all voted for the bill during the general session. Senators Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, and Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, also voted for the bill after readings on the Senate floor.
“Anyone who has been a victim of a crime can apply. Our main focus here at the advocacy center is to provide support for victims of violent crimes. That’s where this bill starts to take place,” Cassidy Drew, a victim advocate for the Advocacy and Resource Center in Sheridan, said.
Drew said if a person is injured as a result of a crime and has medical expenses, that person can apply for crime victim compensation to help pay for those medical expenses.
“The compensation and restitution bill is really, really crucial for the victims we serve because of how victimization does tend to be physical or have physical components,” Drew said. “Violent crimes definitely include some psychological trauma and victims may need longer term services than we can provide as advocates.”
Drew said the Advocacy and Resource Center addresses crisis intervention, including immediate crisis and needs, safety planning and emotional support. The center does not account for certified therapists or clinicians, making it hard to provide the extra support for a victim long-term.
Advocates help educate victims to their rights following a crime, like the money available through the compensation program.
The crime victim compensation bill has been passed to provide additional care and help for victims of any crime, including violence, and will give the victim extra time and compensation if necessary.
The legislative bill will be effective July 1, 2019.