Domestic violence shelter operators call on Oklahoma lawmakers to increase funding

Increased demand is straining resources as the state grapples with highest rate of violence

By: - October 26, 2023 5:30 am

A woman holds up her hands in self-defense. Domestic violence advocates are urging Oklahoma lawmakers to increase funding for shelters. (Photo by Getty Images) (This image cannot be republished unless you have a Getty subscription.)

Eileen Meadows has seen an uptick in service demand at her Durant-based crisis shelter that works with victims of domestic violence.

That coupled with a rise in costs “has been overwhelming to say the least,” said Meadows, who runs Oklahoma Crisis Control.

“We already operate on an extremely tight budget and are short staffed and underpaid,” Meadows said. “It has caused staff turnover.”

Domestic violence service providers statewide are reporting increased demand is straining their resources. They’re calling on lawmakers to increase funding for shelters and crisis centers as the state continues to grapple with some of the highest rates of domestic violence.

Service providers say resources are especially scarce in rural Oklahoma where one agency often serves multiple counties.

Kelsey Samuels, of the Community Crisis Center in Miami, reported the center has served nearly 50% more victims in the last four years. Calls are up 60%.

“Victim service agencies are at a critical place where additional funding is needed to keep up with the increased demand for services and operational expenses due to the rising cost of living,” Samuels said.

Oklahoma ranks highest in the nation for domestic violence rates and second in the number of women killed by men. According to the most recent report from the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, 118 people were killed as the result of domestic violence in 2021.

The reason for recent increased demand is likely due to victims emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent awareness efforts, said Tara Tyler, executive director for the Survivor Resources Network in Ponca City.

“So, what we’re seeing is not only an increased number of calls but the injuries, the trauma, the physical and mental damage is compounded and more complex,” Tyler said.

So far, her center has also served more people this year than the same period last year.

Providers, meanwhile, are regrouping after their primary nonprofit advocacy association, The Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, shuttered in July amid allegations of misspent funds. The coalition served as a hub for federal funding, training and advocacy at the state Capitol.

Tyler said 32 state certified providers are forming a new coalition, End Violence Oklahoma, to carry on training and legislative efforts.

Domestic violence service providers certified by the Attorney General’s Office share a portion of roughly $7 million in funding, including $3 million added by the Legislature last year, Tyler said.

“In order to ensure funding for all these services, for all certified agencies, we need $10 million,” Tyler said.

Shelters split the state funding, so as more open, the money will have to be divided even further, Tyler said.

Advocates also note that neighboring states spend considerably more on domestic-violence prevention programs.

In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly recently announced the state awarded $18.4 million in state funding for domestic violence programs. Texas spent $65.3 million last year.

Some advocates hope the Legislature will invest in prevention programs to help reduce domestic violence rates.

Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okmulgee, who is chair of the budget committee, said in an email he is aware of the continuing need.

“I remain very interested in seeing sufficient funding provided to address domestic violence,” he said. “We are at the beginning of the budget process for the next fiscal year.”



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Mindy Ragan Wood
Mindy Ragan Wood

Mindy covers the legislature for Oklahoma Voice. Her areas of focus include infrastructure, municipal government policies, and human services with an emphasis on the needs of intellectually vulnerable and physically challenged adults.