Local and national organizations often look for qualified professionals to contract with for your professional services. Earlier this year, I ran across Licensed Professional Counselor Becky Bringewatt talking on social media about her own experiences with Victim’s Compensation. I have invited Becky to join us today to share with you how you, too, can begin providing counseling services through Victim’s Compensation, too.
A Guest Post by Becky Bringewatt, MA, LPC, NCC
Has a current client recently been the victim of a violent crime i.e. domestic violence, robbery, carjacking, rape, or assault that was reported to the police?
Have you heard about Victim’s Compensation, but aren’t sure if it is a good route for your therapy practice?
This is your practical guide to working with Victim’s Compensation Services.
What is Victim’s Compensation?
The Victim Compensation program is set up so that people [in the United States] who have been victims of crime can receive necessary services, such as medical care, replacement of property, and mental health care, which will allow them to recover from these crimes. These programs are run out of each county’s District Attorney’s Office. Some of the funding for these programs comes directly from the perpetrators of crimes through restitution programs and other court fines.
Through the work I’ve done [in the State of Colorado] with victims of crime over several years, I have become an approved provider for mental health services for Victim’s compensation in five (5) local counties. Although the programs are similar, they do var by state and by county, so you may have to do some work to determine how things work in your state. In the past, information was difficult to come by, but now it seems that everything is online and easily accessible, if not immediately, then just an e-mail or phone call away. I’ve had quick response times from all of the Victim Advocates and staff that I have worked with, and they’ve been incredibly courteous.
Income from Victim’s Compensation
Payments [for psychotherapy] are approximately $80.00 per hour throughout the state of Colorado for individual therapy sessions, but vary by state and by county depending on what is considered fair compensation for services in a given area. You may also be compensated for group and family therapy if it is appropriate. Additionally, some counties will compensate full hour-and-a-half sessions for EMDR therapy if you are qualified to do this and it is a part of your treatment plan. To get more specific information about exact compensation amounts, contact the county you will be working with.
How Does a Victim Qualify for Funding?
A person must be the victim of a documented crime in order to access compensation for services. This requires that they will have a case number and police documents that show the date of the crime, the nature of the crime, and the name of the officer who responded to the call and began the investigation. The date when the crime took place will be important because compensation may go back several years if a crime is still effecting a person. Check with the county you will be working with for more information (but please, get a release first!).
The victim of the crime will often have been given the contact information of a Victim’s Advocate or have been contacted directly by that individual before they contact you for therapy. The Victim’s Advocate can help them get the necessary information to apply to the Victim’s Compensation Board to receive services. If they have been approved for services, they will receive a Victim’s Compensation number. If they do not have a number, you can help them by making this call with them, or calling and asking how to set this up. There may be an application process for the victim to complete.
Police Reports Matter
If your client has been the victim of a crime, but does not have this information, s/he should be able to access it through public records at the police department who responded to their case. If they have not reported the crime, or it is not documented, they are not eligible for services; however, there may be a statute of limitations allowing them to report the crime at a later date. This will all depend on state and local laws and the type of crime committed.
It may be determined that the crime your client was a victim of does not qualify the victim for services. There may also be funding issues that would keep a client from accessing Victim’s Compensation services until more funding is received.
How to Get Victim’s Compensation Referrals
Often clients will come to you knowing they have been approved for these services. They may be clients you have worked with in the past or referrals through your normal channels. The Victim Advocates also have access to the information about therapists who are approved to provide services in each county. It helps to know a Victim Advocate you have worked with in the past because they can give more direct referrals; however most referrals for these programs do not come through this channel.
Most of my referrals have been previous clients who were later victims of a crime, or word of mouth referrals from former clients to friends or family members who have been victimized. I do know a couple of Victim Advocates to whom I have given my cards, but haven’t found that to be particularly effective in garnering referrals. I get a few referrals a year, so this is not likely to be your bread and butter, but simply an addition to your current stream of income.
The family members, specifically children or parents of children who have been crime victims, who have also been effected by the crime may be eligible for services under the [same] victim’s compensation number. This is especially true if they were present at the scene of the crime and witnessed the event. The number of [approved] sessions will be fewer and the services available to them may also be limited.
6 Things to Consider When Providing Therapy through Victim’s Compensation
- There is an expectation that you have some experience in [providing therapy for] trauma or victimization. It also helps if you know how the legal system works, especially as it pertains to police investigations and ongoing court cases. Clients have a lot of questions, and sometimes a lot of pain and anger around the pace of the investigation and the court proceedings, and you will have to help them navigate through that. There is also a possibility that you will be called upon to testify in court on the victim’s behalf. There are specific trainings you can attend that will help with this but experience is always best.
- Clients may be talking about medical issues if they were [physically] hurt during the crime and you may need to coordinate your care with medical professionals regarding medications and treatment for physical ailments. Some of these medical issues can be long-term or ongoing and may be a significant part of your treatment. This could include head injuries, psychiatric treatment, or disabilities.
- Family members and support systems of crime victims tend to get taxed by the lengthy investigation and court process and can become frustrated with how the person who was victimized is dealing with their grief, anger, and loss. This may become a vital part of your therapy. It is possible you are the only real support a victim feels s/he has.
- You must be willing to talk with the victim about the fact that the perpetrator may be asked to pay for part of the services the victim is receiving. Sometimes this is a difficult conversation depending on the crime and the intimacy of the victim and perpetrator. Some victims choose not to seek treatment when they learn this information.
- If you work with the victim’s insurance plan, the insurance is the first payer, as with all other programs. Victim’s Compensation only pays you if you do not take the type of insurance the victim has or will cover types of therapy not covered under the primary insurance plan. This includes Medicaid and Medicare.
- Get comfortable with the words “victim” and “perpetrator.” This language will be used on forms and with other professionals at the investigation and court levels. I sometimes find this difficult because it feels harsh in comparison to how I view my clients, but I understand how it can be necessary.
If You Still Want to Work with Victim’s Compensation . . .
Here’s how Victim’s Compensation tends to work in Colorado:
- Download an application for being a provider in the county or counties you are closest to or the county where your client’s victimization happened. These can be found by a computer search of the county services or offices (be sure you have the right state). Information can generally be found under the heading of the District Attorney’s office and under the heading of Victim’s Compensation. As far as I am aware, there is no clearinghouse website that has all of this information listed in the state of Colorado, but in other states that may be the case. I have had to search with a web browser for the specific information I wanted in each county I am working with.
- Complete the application and either fax or e-mail your information to the District Attorney’s office. This information is provided on the form itself. You may also be required to send supporting documents like a copy of your license (or your supervisor’s license if you are unlicensed).
- Get accepted as a provider. You will usually be informed of your acceptance by e-mail or phone within a short time of sending in your information. I usually call the contact person if I have not received this information within a week.
- Complete up to three (3) assessment sessions with your client, who has a valid case number for a crime in that county, and complete the treatment plan. This form can also be downloaded from the county’s website, and must be completed in printed (not written) format. You must complete this with your client, who must also sign the form. Most information can be faxed, mailed, or e-mailed, but may depend on state regulations regarding privacy information and preference of each office.
- Wait for approval. Depending on the timing of when the board meets and when you send in paperwork, this can take several weeks. You may meet with your client while you are waiting, but there is no guarantee you will be paid for those sessions. Approval comes in the form of a letter, sent to both you and your client. Most of these systems are becoming more automated, and soon all of this should be available in e-formats as well.
- Start seeing your client and billing. Your approval letter will tell you the number of sessions for which you can bill. Your invoices need to be itemized with the client’s VC number, dates, and length of session. You may also need to include the type of session if you are providing a special service such as EMDR or group sessions. Most billing is done by fax at this time (postal mail and e-mail may be other options available to you, so check with the office you are working with), and should be done monthly, before the last day of the month. Because the board must approve all billing, it may take more than a month for you to be paid. Patience and persistence are good qualities to have here. Some counties will send you a letter telling you that payment is forthcoming, others just send out checks with the letter of explanation of payment. A recent survey I received as a provider of Victim’s Compensation services asked about ease of payments requests via e-mail, so some of these systems may be changing or in transition to more modern technology.
Appealing to Victim’s Compensation to Extend Treatment Benefits
Sometimes even after you have worked with a client and used all of your approved sessions, there is much work to be done. If you need to appeal for more sessions in Colorado here’s how you do it . . . .
- The form to request extending services is typically available on the county’s website. It is a separate form that is different from your initial assessment. You will be asked about progress in treatment and why there is a need for more therapy. As with the initial assessment, it is best to complete the appeal form with your client, and must be signed by them. Usually an appeal is used for extenuating circumstances that are making therapy more difficult than usual. An example of this might be further victimization from a different source, or the loss of a family member after the crime with grief making it more difficult to heal, or a disability that was a result of the crime.
- You will be asked to appeal in person before the board to request additional sessions than were originally granted. It is always better if your client goes to the appeal meeting with you and presents his/her own case for needing more sessions.
- If you are approved for more sessions, you and your client you will be notified in the form of a written letter or e-mail.
- There is only one appeal allowed per client and per crime.
Crime victims need your help to allow them to recover and heal from their traumas.
I hope this information was helpful to you in making your decision about whether to become a provider for Victim’s Compensation.
If you have additional questions, concerns, or a different experience with your own local Victim’s Compensation, please do leave those below so that we can all continue to share and learn from each other.
About the Author: Becky Bringewatt is a transpersonal therapist and business coach in Denver, Colorado at Mantis Counseling and Coaching Services. She has worked in the mental health field for 20 years.