On Monday, April 11, Peacemaker Program, Inc. Executive Director Brenda Episcopo received an announcement that $170 million in funding cuts have been made to the New York State judiciary. This includes cuts to the Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC) and Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Programs as well as numerous programs cut to local courts.
Combined with other recent funding losses, this results in $110,500 cuts to the programs at the Peacemaker Program, Inc.
“This is a major funding loss for our agency, reflecting nearly 25% of our total agency budget. Staff layoffs and service reductions are unavoidable. However, Peacemaker Program will retain our core dispute resolution and child advocacy mission and position ourselves to grow as funding becomes available.” Episcopo says.
Peacemaker’s total funding loss includes $80,000 loss in Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC) Program funding and $11,865 in funding for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) from the NYS Unified Court System. Other funding reductions are expected, including: Youth Bureaus of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, and $28,000 in funding loss for Family Mediation from United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica, beginning July 1.
With these cuts, The Peacemaker Program will only be able to serve 75% of the people that they served last year which results to an estimated 700 people unable to access services. For example more than 100 children who are at risk of or have been abused will not have advocates to ensure their placement in a safe and permanent home. Nearly 100 families will not be able to access mediation to work out custody visitation and child support issues. This brings an estimated $270,000 cost to our community and tax payers.
“With our programs, as well as our local court systems, stripped of this level of funding, people in our community will have to wait long periods of time to access the courts when they need them. Delays will endure for months. Children will be in danger, because parents will have to wait long periods of time to get resolution of high conflict situations.” Episcopo says.
Peacemaker Program will remain the premier provider of Surrogate Decision Making, Mediation Services and Court Appointed Special Advocates for children. Funding losses will mean the following:
- lay off of ADR Program Assistant
- lay off of Administrative & Marketing Assistant
- elimination of currently vacant Child Advocate Assistant
- Reduction in work hours of Senior Family Services Coordinator
- Peacemaker Program Main Office will be open Monday-Thursday 9am-4pm and by appointment. The office will be closed to the public on Fridays.
As far as program services are concerned, the agency plans to focus on mediation, CASA and surrogate decision making:
- Family and community mediation programs will remain intact, with continuation of volunteer mediator programs.
- Community Arbitration services will be eliminated.
- Mediation staff will not be present in Utica and Rome City Courts for referrals, but will remain available to receive referrals at our main office.
- The new Police-Community Mediation Program will continue and will be overseen by Director of Programs and Training.
- Court Appointed Special Advocate Program will continue with funding support from United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica.
- Funding for Surrogate Decision Making Committee Program has not been effected at this time.
Peacemaker Conflict Consultation Services, a professional conflict resolution training program under the Peacemaker Program, will continue to provide high quality conflict resolution training for companies and provide an additional source of income for the agency.
“In my first three years as Executive Director, I grew the Peacemaker Program's client base by 58% through implementing efficient and innovative programming. The same dedication and skills that our team utilized to grow The Peacemaker Program from the early two-person staff to an eventual staff of twelve, will help us position to grow again through this challenging economy. We have amazing volunteer support and a very dedicated staff and board of directors.” Says Episcopo.