SB155: Okerlund seeks funds to open children justice centers in Kane and Beaver counties


By Christopher Filanc-Gustafson
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY – A bill that would provide a homelike experience for children that have endured some form of child abuse in Kane and Beaver counties has passed the House and is expected to be considered next by a Senate Committee.

Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, is sponsoring SB155, which appropriates $80,000 for the two centers. The centers provide a place to protect and give assistance to victims of sexual abuse as well as help gather evidence for court proceedings. There are currently 15 such centers to assist children in the state.

“I’ve been working on this program for all the time I’ve been up here. We’ve been working for a number of years trying to get these services available for the children that have been affected and the families that have been affected,” Okerland siad.

Along with $40,000 for each center, additional funds might be required depending on how many cases will be handled, he said.

“The program is authorized by the attorney general’s office,” Okerlund explained. According to Okerlund, the local county attorney as well as the state attorney general’s office will appoint someone to run the centers.

“What the appropriation does, it will be $40,000 for each center. The local governments have provided the rooms and a building where the interviews can take place,” Okerlund said.

Staff at the Iron County Children Justice Center have agreed to serve as a satellite center to provide qualified people to help in these smaller districts. Iron County can provide the qualified personnel to interview the children as well as deal with the family issues, Okerlund said.

The bill includes the following provisions:

  • Additional services provided in these centers, including obtaining reliable and admissible information, which can be used in criminal and child protection proceedings in the state.
  • Education and training of persons who provide services to the abused child and its family in the state.
  • Protecting the interest of the abused child and the community as well as reducing trauma to the abused child in the state.
  • Enhancing the community understanding of sexual abuse of children, physical abuse of children, and other crimes in the state involving a child as well as enhance the community in understanding of criminal offenses committed against or in the presence of children.
  • Providing help and assistance to children in need.
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