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Federal grant helps state enhance legal services for rural, tribal communities

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Posted at 9:47 AM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 09:46:59-05

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan officials are working on a roadmap to ensure victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking have enhanced access to civil legal assistance in rural and tribal communities, according to a news release Thursday.

It’s thanks to a federal grant awarded to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Division of Victim Services.

Limited financial resources, geographic isolation and diverse cultural barriers inhibit many tribal and rural victims from accessing essential legal services and representation, the state says.

“Providing affordable, equitable and accessible civil legal representation to all victims of crime is essential, and this project seeks to enhance those efforts for those living in rural and tribal communities,” said Debi Cain, executive director of the MDHHS Division of Victim Services. “This multi-coalition partnership shows how important these efforts are to countless victims and their families, and we are grateful for this opportunity to work together on their behalf.”

The division has provided funding for several legal initiatives over the past several years that have identified gaps in services for tribal and rural victims.

This project seeks to evaluate existing efforts to support these communities while creating a comprehensive roadmap for future work to enhance the availability of meaningful legal assistance.

The partnership includes the Division of Victim Services, Michigan’s tribal coalition – Uniting Three Fires Against Violence – and the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.

“As someone who has worked for over 20 years representing rural victims of violence, I can personally attest to the deep lack of available resources for victims of crime,” said Sarah Prout Rennie, executive director of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. “I am proud to be part of this effort and am grateful to Debi Cain and the Division of Victim Services for being such trailblazers in the ongoing work to ensure victims of crime have the support they need.”