Foundation activism

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Looking for the best role it can play in fighting domestic violence and sexual assault in North Carolina, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem has launched an effort to assess the funding mechanisms and the role that policy and advocacy play in addressing the issue.

To help it assess its efforts, the foundation has contracted with Leslie Starsoneck, who has stepped down as director of the North Carolina Council for Women and Domestic Violence Commission in the state Department of Administration.

“We are concerned there are not enough resources going into prevention, intervention or services” involving violence against women and its impact on families, says Tom Ross, the foundation’s executive director.

“So we are interested in fully understanding what the current funding streams are,” he says. “We also feel there needs to be a higher level of advocacy on behalf of the victims of violence as a group.”

One goal will be to help policymakers and others “understand the needs and what are effective interventions and services,” Ross says.

As a result of Starsoneck’s research, he says, the foundation might pursue any number of approaches.

That could include funding efforts to improve the collection of data on medical and legal costs resulting from family violence, he says, or to better tap existing funding streams such as Medicaid to pay for services for victims.

Or it could support groups that advocate for victims’ services, or that might study ways to streamline the filing of claims.

“There may be policy changes that have to be made,” he says, “to allow service providers to qualify for funding.”

Starsoneck says she will be assessing funding that aims to stabilize or strengthen programs that deliver direct services, and will be aiming to make sure advocacy efforts are coordinated.

“People really need to be working hand in hand,” she says, “to attack both sexual assault and domestic violence.”

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