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October 6, 1999

New guidelines aim to improve mental-health services for crime victims

TUMWATER -- New guidelines take effect Nov. 1 to improve mental-health treatment for crime victims receiving assistance through Washington's Crime Victims Compensation Program.

The new guidelines are the result of a two-year effort by a task force created by the state Department of Labor & Industries to provide better treatment to

innocent victims of violent crime.

Labor & Industries manages the Crime Victims Compensation Program, which annually receives between 5,600 to 5,800 claims. The program is a safety net for crime victims who have no insurance or have exhausted other sources of assistance.

The program has a two-year operating budget of $25 million, which includes

$6 million from the federal government.

About three-quarters of all claims are accepted. Benefits include payments for time lost from work, medical care, pensions and mental-health counseling, among others.

Seven of every 10 claims are for women and children. Almost three-quarters of the claims for children are related to sexual assault.

The new guidelines will assist claims managers and providers in determining how to provide mental-health treatment for crime victims who may require such counseling.

In 1997, Labor & Industries began a joint research project with the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress and the University of Washington. An earlier report that studied the type and amount of mental health services used by crime victims in 1994 prompted creation of the 13-member Mental Health Treatment Guidelines Task Force.

Results of the 1994 study found that mental-health difficulties of crime victims were diagnosed inadequately. New guidelines for mental-health providers would improve service to victims of crime, according to the study.

Highlights of the new guidelines include:

  • Initial mental-health counseling sessions should be used to focus on a patient's initial needs in dealing with the effects of a crime, such as medical, family or employment problems. Counselors should not use the early session to justify long-range treatment, which may be unnecessary.
  • A thorough study of a patient's background must be completed before the Crime Victims Compensation Program will accept a diagnosis by a

mental-health provider.

  • Cultural aspects are essential in determining the use of mental-health services for crime victims.
  • Interpreters should be used for a crime victim with limited proficiency in English to avoid improper diagnosis.

The new guidelines and other information about the Crime Victims Compensation Program are available on the Internet at: /insurance/cvc98-01sum.htm

The task force members:

  • Lucy Berliner, director of research, Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress.
  • Dr. Tim Keller, medical director, Seattle Mental Health. He represents the Washington State Medical Association the Washington State Psychiatric Association.
  • Dr. Martha A. Bird, Silverdale
  • Charee Boulter, Tacoma
  • Carlos Carrillo, Division of Children and Family Services, Yakima
  • Jerry DeVore, director of psychology services, Good Samaritan Rehabilitation Center, Puyallup
  • Laura Groshong, Seattle, representing the Clinical Social Work Federation
  • Lucy Homans, Seattle, representing the Washington State Psychological Association
  • Barb Huffman, head of Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse Services, Compass Health, Everett
  • Kara Laverde, training specialist, The Casey Family Program, Seattle
  • James Mahoney, Spokane, representing the National Association of Social Workers
  • Dr. Ted Rynearson, medical director, Separation and Loss Services, Virginia Mason Medical Center
  • Muriel Templeton, Artemis Counseling Associates, Richland

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