A state grant to help victims of sexual assault is being shifted from Blue Earth County to a nonprofit after the county declined to remain as the program’s host.

When the transition is complete there should still be a full-time advocate and a 24/7 hotline but it will be administered by a different group, New Ulm-based Crime Victim Services.

For more than 20 years — they’re not sure exactly how long it’s been — Blue Earth County has provided sexual assault services for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

County Human Services Director Bob Meyer said the county has received a grant for $47,000 but spends almost double that on the program. Costs include a full-time staff person, overhead and cell phones for on-call volunteers.

In addition, having a single employee creates a problem when that person is sick or on vacation, he said.

When the county told the state it would no longer apply for the grant, the state asked other local groups for requests. It chose Crime Victim Services, which also does sexual assault advocacy in Brown, Nicollet and Sibley counties.

The new agreement technically starts Oct. 1, but the nonprofit is already working with Blue Earth County clients. There are currently more than 65 people receiving services from the program.

As to the recent reports of sex assaults in Mankato, Crime Victim Services Executive Director Lila Kahmann said she’s not sure if there are more assaults or just more reporting of them. Whatever the reason, her offices in nearby counties have been getting more calls in the past three or four weeks.

She said the nonprofit is seeking office space in Mankato and hopes to have it within the next week or so.

Other entities offer counseling for victims, but Crime Victim Services will offer crisis services day or night.

Kahmann said most of their work is done over the phone but their staff and volunteers also meet with victims immediately after an assault, usually at a police station or hospital.

“We want people to make decisions that they feel are right for them with as much information as we are able to give them,” she said.

Their “safeline” phone number is 1-800-630-1425 and it’s answered by trained staff.

Crime Victim Services also helps victims through the legal process and gives one-on-one counseling. There’s currently a support group in St. Peter and one might be added in Mankato.

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