Victims' Survey

New Mexico Murder Victim Family Advocacy Project

Overview of Services for Murder Victim Families in New Mexico

 

 

The New Mexico Murder Victim Family Advocacy Project (NMVFAP) completed an exhaustive research study to determine what services are available to murder victim families across the state of New Mexico. Specifically, services in the following areas were researched:

 

·         Financial – Murder often disrupts the financial flow of funds for families. Financial constraints can be due to expenses involved with the murder victim’s burial, etc. Other types of financial constraints can be the inability, in the short and long term, to pay rent/mortgage, child care and other expenses without the assistance of the murder victim’s income.

 

·         Legal – The legal process can be daunting for murder victim families. Murder investigations and trials can be extremely complex and time consuming. Family members often need assistance understanding the process and effectively participating in that process.

 

·         Mental – The murder of a family member can cause significant mental issues to arise. Mental and grief counseling is often needed on a short and long term basis to battle the mental devastation brought on by murder.

 

 

Financial Resources: 

 

Crime Victim’s Reparation Commission (CVRC) has funds dedicated to providing assistance to murder victim families as well as other victims of violent crime. The financial assistance available through CVRC includes:

 

·         Awards up to maximum of $20,000 can be made for the following:

o    Medical and dental care;

o    Mental health counseling (30 sessions maximum)

o    Funeral and burial expenses ($6,000 maximum)

o    Loss of earnings as a result of the crime;

o    Eyeglasses ($350 maximum)

o    Or other medically necessary devices

 

Applications for this financial aid must be made through the Crime Victim’s Reparation Commission. Applications and eligibility requirements are available on the website: www.cvrc.state.nm.us

 

Community Organizations are the other potential source of financial assistance for murder victim family members. No dedicated programs for murder victim family members, or crime victims in general, were identified. Family members may look to the following types of organizations in their community for possible assistance. This assistance is not guaranteed and would depend on the specific situation for the individual family:

 

·         Religious organizations and churches – A survey of members of the New Mexico Conference of Churches showed that, although no churches or entities has a dedicated program to provide assistance to murder victim families, a large majority said that they would be willing to discuss the possibility of providing short term financial assistance to parishioners in need in this situation.

 

·         Community assistance organizations and foundations – Another short term assistance source may be local community organizations. While none surveyed have a dedicated fund or program, some said that situations would be individually reviewed and some may qualify for short term financial assistance or donation of food or other goods, as needed. These organizations include such entities as Salvation Army, Goodwill, Catholic Charities, St. Vincent DePaul, etc. and are different in each community. Additional resources that may be available for specific cases include local food banks and utility assistance funds (Good Neighbor Funds).

 

Service Shortcomings and Gaps:  The amount of financial assistance available through the CVRC is not adequate for all situations. Housing and supplies are particular areas where murder victim families may experience short and long term needs that are not met with the CVRC funding.

 

 

Legal Assistance:

 

Victim Advocates are employed in each District Attorney’s Office and are available to assist murder victim family members throughout the legal process. These victim’s advocates are available free of charge. These advocates provide notification of legal proceedings, explain the process to the family members and help them navigate the system during murder investigations and trials.

 

As cases move forward in the district attorneys’ offices, a victim’s advocate is assigned to the family. The Victim’s Advocate for each Judicial District are listed below:

 

·         1st Judicial District – Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos Counties: 505-827-5000 X 190

·         2nd Judicial District – Bernalillo County: 505-841-7102

·         3rd Judicial District – Dona Ana County: 575-524-6370

·         4th Judicial District – San Miguel, Mora and Guadalupe Counties: 505-425-6746

·         5th Judicial District – Eddy, Chaves and Lea Counties: 575-885-8822

·         6th Judicial District – Grant, Luna and Hidalgo Counties: 575-388-1941

·         7th Judicial District – Catron, Socorro, Sierra and Torrance Counties:  575-835-0052

·         8th Judicial District – Taos, Colfax and Union Counties: 575-758-8683

·         9th Judicial District – Curry and Roosevelt Counties: 575-769-2246

·         10th Judicial District – Quay, Harding and DeBaca Counties: 575-461-2075

·         11th Judicial District, Division I – San Juan County: : 505-599-9810

·         11th Judicial District, Division II – McKinley County: 505-722-2281

·         12th Judicial District – Otero and Lincoln Counties: 575-437-3640

·         13th Judicial District – Cibola, Sandoval and Valencia Counties: 505-285-4627

 

Service Shortcomings and Gaps: There is no formalized assistance for family members having to take off work during trials and investigations. Without paid time off from work, family members are not always able to participate fully in the investigation and the resulting trial. Involvement in all aspects of the legal process is very important to many murder victim family members and should be an opportunity afforded to each.

 

 

Mental Assistance:

The Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI), located in the UNM Health Sciences Center, provides free support groups and individual grief counseling for murder victim family members. The OMI has two clinical counselors on staff who provide support group services in a variety of areas around the state. At this time, the support groups are offered on the following schedule:

 

·         Albuquerque – 4th Thursday of the month

·         Farmington – 3rd Thursday of the month

·         Gallup – 2nd Thursday of the month

·         Hobbs – 2nd Monday of the month

·         Las Vegas – 2nd Wednesday of the month

·         Roswell – 4th Tuesday of the month

·         Santa Fe – 3rd Tuesday of the month

 

For location and time information, and an updated schedule of statewide support groups, OMI can be reached at 505-925-9501, 505-272-4422 or 800-432-5239.

 

Additionally, the counselors are available to provide in-person grief counseling when needed. These individual sessions must be scheduled in communities where a support group is listed and on a schedule that works for the limited OMI counseling staff.

 

The OMI services are available to any murder victim family member, including domestic partners. The services are unlimited and can continue as long as the individual needs assistance.

 

The OMI initiates contact with every murder victim family member shortly after the crime. Individuals can immediately take advantage of the free services, or can join a support group at a later date. For details on the support groups (time and location) or for individual counseling, contact the OMI at 505-272-5040

 

Additional Services are available statewide for grief counseling and mental health crisis management. Although these additional services are not specifically for the needs of murder victim families or even victims of crime, they may be of value to some individuals. (For example, grief counseling/assistance for those who have experienced loss due to illness is different in many ways to what is often needed by murder victim families.)

 

·         New Mexico Sentencing Commission maintains a website that lists the various providers of mental assistance and counseling services statewide: www.nmjustice.net/nmsc/juvenile/search.php . This website allows the user to search for specific assistance needs within their community. Gender and age are also search options.

 

·         Agora Crisis Center, part of University of New Mexico, is a help line and walk-in counseling center in Albuquerque that is available to anyone in need of immediate peer counseling services. The help line is open from 9am – Midnight every day, and is staffed by trained peer counselor volunteers. The hotline may be accessed by calling 277-3013 in Albuquerque or 1-866-HELP1NM elsewhere in the state.

 

·         Paid services are available for grief counseling and mental health support. Most insurance programs cover at least some level of paid counseling services. The amount of counseling provided depends on the individual’s insurance policy. Contact individual insurance carriers for details on covered services, and available counselors.

 

Support Groups for Children are available in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. These support groups are for any children who have experienced the loss of a loved one and do not offer specific groups or services for murder victim family members.

 

·         Children’s Grief Center of New Mexico, located in Albuquerque, offers free support groups to children and young adults who have lost a family member. These support groups are facilitated by volunteers. Currently, groups meet twice a month at Sunset Mesa School (East Albuquerque) on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and at Maggie Cordova Elementary (West Albuquerque) on Thursday evenings. Children are grouped based on age. Children age 5 and up are eligible to participate. There is also a young adults’ support group for ages 18-25.

 

Parents must stay on-site with children when they attend the support groups. There is an informal support group for parents during the children’s group timeslots. One adult group is for Spanish speaking parents.

 

Information on Children’s Grief Center of New Mexico is available at www.childrensgrief.org

 

·         Gerard’s House in Santa Fe offers free support groups and individual support to children and young adults ages 3-20. These support groups are facilitated by volunteers, and children are grouped based on age.  Date and times vary for support groups.

 

Parents must stay on-site with children when they attend the support groups. There is an adult support group for parents during the children’s group timeslots.

 

Information on Gerard’s House is available at www.gerardshouse.org

 

Service Shortcomings and Gaps: For individuals with adequate insurance coverage or sufficient financial resources, mental services are available throughout the state. However, for individuals with inadequate or no insurance, counseling services are limited – particularly in the rural areas of the state. Adults have access to free support group options and limited individual offerings that may require substantial amounts of travel.

 

Children outside of the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas are not provided any support groups or grief services. Even in those areas, the two resources listed above are not specifically for murder victim families. Discussions with personnel at each pointed out that children who have experienced murder in their family may need additional and/or separate assistance.

 

 

Suggested Activities:

The following is a list of suggested activities to improve New Mexico’s services for murder victim family members:

 

·         Foster relationships with community groups and programs that will result in dedicated funds to assist murder victim families financially and through donation of items. Housing and supply donations, which are available on an individual basis to people in need now, could be formalized as a dedicated resource for murder victim families.

 

·         Require paid time-off for murder victim family members during the investigation and trial process.

 

·         Increased funding for OMI to provide support groups in more areas around the state, and allow more individual counseling for murder victim family members.

 

·         Foster relationships with children’s grief assistance organizations to research the possibility of creating grief support groups and/or individual services tailored to the specific needs of children who have experienced the loss of a loved one to murder.

 

·         Create a resource brochure (based on this information in this report) that is provided to murder victim family members by OMI counselors, police officers and victim advocates in the district attorney’s office. This need was identified by almost everyone surveyed for this project, as they see a need for “info at a glance” for people when they are in a state of such grief and shock.