Trauma recovery center in jeopardy as state funding disappears

The highly praised San Francisco Trauma Recovery Center will close Nov. 1 unless it can come up with $1.5 million, its founder said.

The center serves about 800 victims of violence a year by providing free services, including counseling and home visits. Since opening four years ago, the Mariposa Street facility has shown stronger results than other services in getting victims of violence to file police reports and take legal action.

It also keeps victims out of the psychiatric emergency room at San Francisco General Hospital, according to officials. Those visits cost The City about $2,000 each, according to Mark Leary, head of the hospital’s psychiatry unit.

The center’s success stories are many. In 2004, Kathy Young-Hood’s son was shot and killed, becoming The City’s 57th homicide victim of the year. “That was the hardest day of my life and it’s still a constant struggle to battle with the loss of my child,” Young-Hood said. “Without [the center] I would not be here today. I would have committed suicide by now. I would not have been able to pick up my life again and attempt to go on.”

The center was funded from the start with state money. But last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have awarded the center enough money to remain open next year. The money would havecome from the state’s Victim Compensation Fund. The author of the bill, Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said the money in the state fund is “just sitting there” because “it’s so difficult [for victims] to get reimbursement.”

The fund, now totaling $80 million, is growing every year by “a few million dollars,” he said.

Leno has proposed a bill this year that would free up money in the fund. “We now know there is a better way to do it,” Leno said. He wants to use the state money to fund The City’s trauma center, but also at least five new centers throughout the state.

In the meantime, the center’s founder, Alicia Boccellari, needs The City’s money to remain open after November.

Supervisor Chris Daly urged center supporters to attend this Thursday’s Budget and Finance Committee, which is reviewing Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget.

“Before the trauma recovery center existed, only 6 percent of reported sexual assaults in San Francisco received mental health treatment. Now, with the center’s help, 71 percent receive treatment,” Boccellari said. “What will happen to these victims and other victims on Nov. 1?”

jsabatini@examiner.comBay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

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