Rep. Arnold Mooney presents Owens House with $6,000 in funding

Published 12:27 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2022

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By MICHELLE LOVE | Staff Writer 

NORTH SHELBY – On Tuesday, Aug. 16, Alabama Rep. Arnold Mooney presented a check for $6,000 to the local nonprofit Owens House at the U.S. 280 County Services Building.

Owens House, also known as the Children’s Advocacy Center, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding and fighting for children who have been sexually, physically and emotionally abused. The organization was started in 1993 by then-District Attorney Robert Owens. The organization provides forensic interviews, mental health counseling, family advocacy, community education courses and other services supporting families through the whole process -from disclosure to justice – all free of charge.

Mooney presented the $6,000 check to Owens and praised the organization for its work throughout the Shelby County community.

“These folks as DA’s can explain to you the graphic need there is for services like this,” Mooney said. “You guys can talk about what the situations are there, but when you have children who are abused, they’re affected mentally – it scars them. Some find a way out of it, some don’t, and they need help and counseling.”

The funding is part of State Executive Commission on Community Services grants that come out of the special education trust fund. Mooney said every member of the House or Senate that serves in Montgomery has funds provided that they are able to return to the community.

“I make a point to tell folks that this is not money I went and got, it’s money that I have had the opportunity to try to see a need and put it some place,” Mooney said. “This is the people’s money. This is everybody’s money that lives in Shelby County going into this program, and it’s a great program.”

Mooney said the funds are used very specifically by Owens House to provide services to approximately 6,000 children in Shelby County that are in grades kindergarten through third grade in relation to annual training and other needs for school counselors, teachers, administrators and volunteers who work with the children. The project pays for the salaries of program presenters, travel, program materials, all the different things that go on to interest the kids in what’s happening so they’ll feel comfortable talking with someone and begin to share.

Counselor Erica Hill said between she and Owen House’s other counselor Kari Wilson, they typically deal with 1,500 counseling sessions in a year. Owens House also conducts forensic interviews with children where they interview children about their experiences of abuse in a way the child feels safe and that the interview can be admissible in court.

“We use the money to make sure we are providing the best quality of services across the board regardless of what area we’re dealing with, whether it’s mental health counseling or going into school systems,” Executive Director Vetrica Hills said.  “We want to make sure the family can come in and just focus completely on the issue at hand which is giving information for the forensic interview and the healing component through counseling.”

County Manager Chad Scroggins said the work Owens House has accomplished is monumental.

“I think from the County’s standpoint, Owens House has been providing these services for going on 30 years, and while we don’t really see the amount of effect they’re having firsthand, we know this has made a major impact in our community in a lot of situations that involve children’s needs,” he said. “It’s definitely needed more than ever, for sure.

District Attorney Jill Lee also praised the organization for its work and placed emphasis on the importance of forensic interviews.

“Owens House deals with children who have been through unspeakable things, and it keeps the kid from having to tell their story 50 or 60 times,” she said. “You know, something that’s uncomfortable for you or me to talk about, let alone a child to talk about. I think people just don’t understand what all they do unless it’s touched them personally. They deserve recognition.”