AG Fox Presents Outstanding Crime Victim Advocate Awards
Attorney General Tim Fox presented three 2016 Outstanding Crime Victim Advocate of the Year awards at a ceremony this morning at the Lewis & Clark Library Community Room in Helena. This year’s winners are: Joan Eliel, Investigator/Program Specialist with the Montana Department of Justice in Helena; Mitzi Vorachek, Volunteer Advocate with Domestic and Sexual Violence Services in Red Lodge; and Renee Jones, Victim Witness Specialist with the Glasgow Police Department.
Joan Eliel was nominated by Winona Tanner, Chief Judge of the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribal Court. Judge Tanner noted that Joan is the program administrator for Montana’s Project Passport, End-of-Life Registry, and address confidentiality programs; she’s also the coordinator of Montana’s Native American Fatality Review Team. Joan is currently piloting two national projects: the Statewide Automated Victim Information Notification System and the Hope Card Project. The Hope Card Project is a patented approach to enforcement of protection orders and delivery of victim services, and can reduce the time on-scene for officers responding to incidents of protection order violations. Additionally, Hope Cards can provide a sense of security to victims, and allows them to receive potential services more conveniently.
Attorney General Tim Fox said, “Joan has worked tirelessly to promote the benefits of the Hope Card by educating courts, law enforcement, victims, and national organizations on the availability of the cards. She extended the project to the Native American populations, as well as to the tribal courts of Montana. The Hope Card Project would not be a success without the dedication Joan has demonstrated, and she has undoubtedly strengthened relationships between state and tribal agencies and communities.”
Mitzi Vorachek’s nominators emphasized her 30 years of experience in domestic violence prevention and intervention in Pennsylvania, Texas, and Montana. Her work has included serving victims, developing and conducting training; developing and producing TV programming; public speaking; and conducting domestic violence research. Additionally, Mitzi managed a domestic violence and rape crisis hotline that received nearly 50,000 calls per year.
When Mitzi returned to Red Lodge from Houston in 1998, there were no services in the area for people living in abusive relationships. “Mitzi returned to her home state of Montana intending to retire, but with the experience and skill she gained at the Houston Area Women’s Center, it was in her nature to do something to help local victims,” Attorney General Fox noted. “So, she started Domestic and Sexual Violence Services, or DSVS, from her home. Mitzi personally hosted a 24-hour helpline and reached out to professionals in the Billings community. Today, with seven employees, DSVS provides services to victims in Carbon and Stillwater Counties, partners with ASPEN in Livingston to provide emergency financial assistance to victims in Park, Sweet Grass, and Meagher Counties, and provides statewide prevention education through its Power Up, Speak Out! Program.”
Renee Jones is the Victim Witness Specialist within the Glasgow Police Department. Renee’s nominators said she not only gives a voice to victims of domestic violence, but she has also evolved her program to encompass all crime victims. Her nominators added that Renee’s previous experience in working with at-risk youth and families in Texas has been extremely beneficial to the rural communities of Northeastern Montana, bringing fresh perspective and insight into local agencies who work with victims.
Renee’s timely interaction with crime victims is credited with enhancing information sharing among local agencies. Attorney General Tim Fox said, “Renee’s ongoing efforts continue long after offenders have been sentenced. She’s attended parole hearings for the victim and followed the offender’s progress to make sure that the victim’s voice continues to be heard. Renee’s selfless dedication to victims and her job has enabled her department to become one of the leaders in domestic violence prosecution in the state. Renee’s consistent optimism and kindness do not go amiss as she deals with difficult prosecutions and helps victims make decisions that are the best for themselves.”
For a list of previous winners of Montana’s Outstanding Crime Victim Advocate of the Year Award, visit https://dojmt.gov/victims/crime-victim-advocates/outstanding-crime-victim-advocate-award-honorees/