IGNACIO – Ignacio will get a new sexual assault resource office in December with funding help from the Town Board.
The Town Board of Trustees approved a $1,700 funding request to help Durango’s Sexual Assault Services Organization open an office in Ignacio. The town hasn’t had a sexual assault resource center since Our Sister’s Keeper operated there a few years ago. For town trustees, the resource investment and focus on the entire community won their support.
“For me, what sealed the deal was that they weren’t just an extension from another place,” Alison deKay, mayor pro tem, said in an interview. “They were actually going to have office hours in Ignacio and provide regular service.”
SASO, an education and advocacy nonprofit established in 1977, plans to open an office and provide staffing in the ELHI Community Center by the end of this year. The town’s contribution helped complete a $12,000 match requirement for a $12,000 Colorado Payroll Department grant.
SASO provides 24-hour crisis intervention and counseling, victim advocates during hospital and law enforcement visits, free trauma support groups, financial support for individual therapy and prosecution and court advocates.
Staff conduct community outreach, law enforcement training and education programs to teach youths and adults about healthy relationship dynamics, conflict resolution and digital safety. SASO’s outreach includes school districts in La Plata County.
“Often (Ignacio residents) have expressed challenges with coming into Durango or being able to do follow-up in Durango,” said Maura Doherty Demko, executive director for the nonprofit SASO.
“The other part is, to provide outreach in the community and to build those relationships and trust, you have to be there,” she said. It has been challenging for SASO staff to travel in order to provide outreach to the community.
In 2018, SASO served 327 clients with 740 contacts offering 734 referrals to community services, according to the organization’s application for funding. In 2019, the nonprofit has served 12 Ignacio community members through direct services. SASO staff facilitated eight outreach programs that served about 230 people, Doherty Demko said.
Doherty Demko wants to increase on-site services, outreach programs and the number of people served in Ignacio. She also aims to start a free support group for women and offer free therapy.
“It’s really important to me, as the director for SASO, that we are serving the community as a whole,” Doherty Demko said.
SASO has more than $31,000 in funding to provide services for Native Americans through the federal Office on Violence Against Women. For non-Native services, it has about $10,500 through the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, in addition to the $24,000 from the Payroll Department grant and matching funds from community organizations.
Town trustees asked about the school programs and law enforcement involvement. They voted unanimously to provide the funds for the grant match.
“I like the piece that she was reaching out to us as kind of a funder for the whole community so it wasn’t restricted for just a certain population,” deKay said. “This kind of violence doesn’t discriminate.”