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Abuse treatment service set to have funds cut in Fort Myers

We previously reported plans for officials to slash funding for youth organizations that depend on it in Fort Myers, and now that trend is going to impact programs for women, who are victims of domestic violence.

MORE: Fort Myers youth program gains funding, others set to lose it

The City of Fort Myers is cutting money to several community agencies and redirecting it to the city-run S.T.A.R.S. Complex. This means less money for victims of domestic abuse and sex trafficking, so organizations in Fort Myers are teaming up to demand a rethinking on these actions.

“This is technically the only certified domestic and sexual violence crisis center,” said Megan Dalabes with Abuse Counseling & Treatment (ACT) in Fort Myers.

The city plans to cut ACT’s budget by $10,000, and the annual costs to operate three shelters, a rape crisis center and a 24/7 hotline are about $2 million.

“It was a grant that we were getting every year, used to be a couple thousand more,” Dalabes said. “And now it’s been $10,600, which is income that we anticipated for that we had in the budget.”

Less money in the budget will lead to fewer services offered through ACT. Everything the abuse treatment service offers is free to its patients and paid for with grants and donations. Dalabes said basic needs ACT meets will not be affected, however.

“Crafts, or sports exercises, or youth activities,” Dalabes said. “All those things that are supplemental.”

These are all designed to help children of victims remain in ACT shelters.

“It’s often times a mom victim who comes and the kids outnumber mom,” Dalabes said. “So at any given time, we have 50 children here at ACT.”

Currently, a thrift store partners with ACT and helps generate $100,000 a year for ACT service costs. Dalabes said it will require more fundraising to make up for expected losses.

“Making up for the $10,000 will really just require community support,” Dalabes said.

Locally, people support the work done at the S.T.A.R.S. Complex, but they can’t understand why the decision to cut for funding in other important areas is being made.

Meanwhile, Fort Myers City Council is being given the budget of $500,000 to donate to community agencies of its choosing.

We reached out to the city for comment on how or when those decisions will be made, but we have not received a response currently.

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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