Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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September 25th, 2009

Gunther, CRMC keeps RISE from deflating

Regrettably, Sullivan County has more than its fair share of sexual abuse cases, fortunately one organization has always been there to assist and comfort those victims who have undergone such a traumatic and devastating experience. I am speaking about RISE (Rape Intervention Services and Education), and their highly respected program of intervention and counseling.

RISE’s 22 years of servicing Sullivan County residents was in jeopardy of closing down when their sponsoring agency, Planned Parenthood, decided to leave the program in a cost-cutting move and focus more on reproductive health.

Planned Parenthood’s original intent was to transfer RISE to the Recovery Center, in Monticello, so services would not be interrupted, but its grant from the Crime Victims Board’s Victims Assistance Program was not approved, and thus the loss of funding was going to force the program to shut down.

Richard Sush, a candidate for the Thompson Town Board, embarked on a campaign to rescue RISE from closing its doors. “All they needed was around $200,000 in funding for the next year, an office and a telephone,” he said.

Sush contacted several people including Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and Steve Ruwoldt, CEO of Catskill Regional Medical Center (CRMC). “I knew that Aileen, as a former nurse, would understand better than most why RISE is so important. She jumped right on it. Steve immediately offered a home base for the program, and although he couldn’t commit to fund it at that moment, he told us he would have his grants people start looking for money. So for my part, all I did was start a fire and fan the flames. It took off like a California wildfire, as I hoped it would.”

Steve Ruwoldt CEO of CRMC agreed to move RISE to the hospital and place it under their auspices. CRMC also agreed to provide their grant writing expertise.
Ruwoldt told me, “RISE is an important service for our community whose efforts can not be allowed to dissolve without exploring every avenue for funding to support their efforts. We are extremely pleased to serve as the lead agency for RISE so they may continue the work that is so vital to our community.”

The hospital’s CEO added, “We will be kicking off a community fundraiser for the program in the near future. This is a true partnering of resources that will allow the care and compassion of RISE to carry on.”

Chief Assistant District Attorney Jim Farrell noting that his office works closely with RISE, said, “They have been very effective in making sure victims of sexual assault have the necessary counseling and support they need in order to survive.  RISE is instrumental in making sure that sexual assault victims receive justice in the criminal courts and works closely with the DA’s office throughout these prosecutions.”

Farrell added, “Victims and survivors of sexual violence deserve all the support possible to aid in their recovery.  Without this group of dedicated, caring and experienced advocates and counselors, sexual assault victims would be deprived of a necessary component of their healing process.  Sullivan County can ill afford to lose this group, especially with the number of sexual assault cases we see in the DA’s office.”

The funding of about $110,000 to keep the program open for the next year is coming from the New York State Assembly thanks to monies secured by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther.

Gunther told me, “I had to do what I could to save RISE. The statistics speak for themselves. Not only do they support the victims of sexual assault, they also work in the school system.  I am thankful to be able to provide support to keep the doors open and services in place for 2010.”

Cindy Zingher program director of RISE said, “We are beyond thrilled that RISE will continue to service anyone who has ever been a victim of sexual abuse in Sullivan County. I want to thank those who came together for the good of the people.”

The need for RISE is clearly evident. Last year alone, RISE conducted 1,345 counseling sessions, handled 1,015 hotline calls, held 371 support group meetings, served as victims’ personal advocate 331 times and went to court with clients 105 times.

About 60 percent served were children.

A special Thank you on behalf of all of Sullivan County must go out to Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, Steve Ruwoldt and Richard Sush for all their efforts in saving RISE.

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