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Victims of mass casualty events to get advocate in SLO County

Posted at 6:10 PM, Dec 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-07 22:43:45-05

Just this year, the Central Coast saw a number of mass casualty events like the Borderline Bar shooting in Thousand Oaks and the Montecito mudslides.

Now, San Luis Obispo County is taking steps to help the victims of future tragedies.

The SLO County Board of Supervisors approved an application for a state grant funded by the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). That grant will pay for a mass victimization advocate.

This person will help bring relief to those involved in mass casualty incidents or acts of terrorism.

Cal OES says “it’s not a matter of if, but when” until another mass casualty event happens in the state.

Diana Mcpartlan runs the Victim Witness program for SLO County.

She says the new employee will have to train in a number of fields like law enforcement, victim services, non-profit and private sector legal services, city government, emergency management, medical services, and schools to provide information on trauma-informed response.

The advocate would go to criminal events like shootings or natural disasters like mudslides.

The county helped at least 22 victims who were affected by the Las Vegas shooting in 2017.

SLO County District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson said this position will help the county plan the response to future tragedies.

“It’s sad to think that we have to extend it to consider the effects of a mass shooting but you know, but we’ve seen uncomfortably close to home in Ventura County that these things happen,” Gibson said.

Cal OES is offering $100,000 per year for at least three years to each county to provide additional resources when lives are lost.

The grant will cover the advocate’s salary and training fees, but any other expenses will likely come out of the Witness Department fund. The state is encouraging counties to apply for the grant.

“It’s important to be prepared. Instead of being behind the ball, we will be in front,” said Diana McPartlan, director of the SLO County Victim Witness Assistance Center

SLO, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Kern counties will all partner together to respond to incidents that happen within the coastal region.

The advocate will also be responsible for taking a “go-bag” packed with water, tissues, air-masks and other care items.

They will wear an armband so people can easily identify them.

“Victims are looking for emotional support when dealing with the court process because sometimes it is a stressful time for them,” McPartlan added.

McPartland said about 40 people applied to the position and the county is currently reviewing applications.

It hopes to hire someone before the first session of trainings in January of next year.