Commission Receives CAC Update
Susan Scharf, director of the Lighthouse Child Advocacy Center, updated the Wetzel County Commission Jan. 22 on center happenings. Scharf further thanked the commission for being the center’s fiscal agent.
Scharf said the number of children served by the CAC has increased in the past year. During the previous fiscal year, the CAC served 33 children, not including caregivers.
In the first six months of this fiscal year, there have been 26 children served. Another seven children were served since Jan. 1, putting the total at 33. Scharf said this year would unfortunately be a record-setting year for abuse cases. She shared some examples of some of the abuse situations that the CAC has encountered, emphasizing the need of the center.
In an effort to decrease these numbers, the CAC has worked to provide prevention awareness to the community. In the first six months of this fiscal year, the CAC provided prevention awareness to 1,340 students of Wetzel and Tyler counties. The CAC provided prevention awareness to 467 adults.
The CAC has recently hired a new forensic interviewer to help keep up with the increase in number of abuse cases. Brittany Darnell has seven years of experience with children and is familiar with internal investigations. Scharf mentioned she is the primary child interviewer in both Wetzel and Tyler counties; therefore, Darnell will be trained as an interviewer as well. The CAC will begin providing on-site mental health services through Harmony Mental Health services in Parkersburg. Harmony will be available twice a month to meet with children affected by abuse, to provide trauma-focused therapy. Their services will be available beginning Feb. 13, and Scharf said she is pleased to be able to provide such a service. She noted that exposure to abuse can create long-term Post Traumatic Stress in many children.
During the last fiscal year, Scharf also brought together law enforcement and public educators in hopes of providing an open dialogue between the two groups. Scharf hoped this would make the public more aware of child abuse. Furthermore, Scharf has organized presentations at many of the local schools, as well as invited an international speaker to explain the dangers of online predators and sexting.
“We live in a society where people don’t want to talk about this,” Scharf explained to the commission.
“They don’t believe it happens here, but unfortunately we have a lot of abuse happening here.”
Scharf explained that the CAC has expanded from focusing on strictly sexual abuse cases to physical abuse cases, domestic violence cases, and drug abuse cases. She explained that child drug endangerment and witness to violence cases are on the rise. The CAC is limited in what they can do with these cases, because they can only accept referrals from CPS and law enforcement. Scharf also reminded the commission that January is human trafficking month; she noted that, whether people realize it or not, human trafficking is happening on a local level. There are instances of drug-addicted parents selling out their children for drugs.
With the expansion of abuse cases, the Lighthouse Child Advocacy Center is looking to move into a new building, but would like to stay in Paden City since it is located between both Tyler and Wetzel counties. Unfortunately, funding could be an issue, as well as building requirements such as handicapped-accessibility and adequate parking space. If the CAC would be able to find a reasonably priced building within Wetzel County, it could petition the commissioners to purchase the building. The CAC could lease the building from the county. Also, it is a possibility that the commissioners could work with Tyler County commissioners in a partnership, to help fund a building. Commissioner Lemon stated, “For this type of subject, it is a priority to work together.”
With the importance of abuse prevention and awareness, the commissioners passed a motion to donate $10,000 towards operating expenses for the Lighthouse Child Advocacy Center. Scharf thanked the commission for its generous contribution, and the commission thanked Scharf for her work and contributions to the county.
In other matters, the commissioner passed a motion approving the re-appointments of RJ Feldmeier as chairman, and Jimmy Colvin as vice-chairman, to the 911 advisory board. The commission also passed a motion to pay Wetzel County Deputy Michael Neff $431.01 and Wetzel County Deputy Eric Daugherty $801.85 for compensation of accrued compensatory days off. This policy is done to avoid payment of excessive compensation, because the deputies are only allowed to accrue so many days. The commission also passed a motion to approve funding to the Grandview-Doolin PSD for four slips. There is a slip in Richmond, one at the top of Doolin, and there is an exposed line on the Fitzsimmons’ property and a slip on American Ridge. These slips are caused by heavy truck traffic, among other causes. Funds have already been appropriated for these slips, and the cost to fix them is approximated at $200,000. The commission also pledged to assist with the water line expansions on Route 7 and Schubach next fiscal year, and so funds will be put aside for those projects as well.Per WV Ethics and Open Meetings Act, agenda items for Wetzel County Commission will be posted within two days prior to meeting. Request for items requiring action should be submitted within that time frame.
The next scheduled Wetzel County Commission meeting is set for Tuesday, Feb. 6 beginning at 9:30 a.m.