Today the Shelby County Commission unanimously approved a resolution by Commissioner Ritz to assume control of MSARC. The resolution includes the creation of a Victim’s Services Board, but was soft on funding and other details. Ritz’s resolution was an alternative to the one brought by Commissioner Mike Carpenter, but it is currently not available on the County Commission’s site.
This is a victory for victim’s advocates and the community at large for several reasons. First, it places all victims services under the purview of one governmental agency rather than splitting the duties across two. Hopefully this will not only create efficiencies, but also ensure better continuity of service. Secondly, by creating a “Victim’s Services Board” it ensures that the community is providing direct community oversight to avoid the problems that ultimately lead us to this circumstance. Finally, but perhaps least importantly, it takes a regional service and places it with every other regional service in the area, the County.
There are a lot of people that need to be thanked for their hard work, advocacy, and continued push for a solution to the failures that led to this change including; Mid-South Peace and Justice, Memphis Area Women’s Council, elected officials on the City Council and County Commission who advocated for the shift, and finally, Mayor Herenton and Mayor Wharton. Without their leadership in coming together to find a solution, MSARC may have been caught between a rock and a hard place for some time.
There are still a lot of issues to be resolved. The audit initiated by the city, currently scheduled to be completed in the next 60 to 90 days will, perhaps, shed some light on what led to the initial failure, and hopefully provide some learning on how to avoid this in the future. How MSARC will be integrated into the County is also an issue that is a bit murky, despite the actions of the County Commission tonight. Finally, how the Victim’s Services Board will operate, and who gets appointed to it is, perhaps the biggest unresolved non-operational issues going forward.
The community is watching, and we expect transparency and accountability. As new developments come to light, I’ll report them here. Until then, here’s to hoping that MSARC can regain and maintain its place as a national model, not only in the way it’s organized, but also in the care and quality of services it provides.