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April 16, 1996

April 23 marks day to recognize rights of crime victims

Information fair, speakers focus
on where to turn for assistance

TUMWATER - Getting hit by a drunken driver marked only the beginning of the pain for Jael Furnas-Komac.

Surgery, two weeks of intensive care and months in a nursing home left Furnas-Komac with unpaid medical bills of $45,000, even after other benefits had taken care of the first $150,000 in costs. She had a child not yet a year old. Furnas-Komac turned to the Crime Victims Compensation Program at the Department of Labor & Industries for assistance.

The program picked up the remaining bills.

"Without this program, I would have been in debt for years," said Furnas-Komac, a Bellingham resident. "It took a lot of pressure off my family and myself. We were able to just concentrate on getting better."

Furnas-Komac will be one of the featured speakers as Labor & Industries sponsors an informational fair from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. April 23 at its headquarters auditorium at 7273 Linderson Way S.W. in Tumwater. The event is in recognition of National Crime Victims' Rights Week.

This year's theme is "Victim Justice: A New Day Dawns," which reflects the need to boost community awareness of the rights of crime victims and the assistance available to them.

Furnas-Komac is one of the more than 7,000 crime victims in Washington who annually apply for benefits through the program.

The Legislature created the program in 1974. It provides up to $150,000 in benefits to qualified victims of felonies and gross misdemeanors who have no other insurance. Benefits may also be available to spouses and children of crime victims. Funding comes from a federal grant and the state's Public Safety Education Account, which includes fees, fines and assessments collected by the courts.

In 1995, the program paid $11 million in benefits. Seventy-two percent of all claims are from women and children. Almost 80 percent of claims for children are related to sexual assaults.

And sometimes, benefits go to crime victims such as Furnas-Komac.

"Then you can concentrate on getting well and getting on with your life," she added.

Besides Furnas-Komac, other scheduled speakers are:

  • State Rep. Ida Ballasiotes, R-Mercer Island.
  • Mark O. Brown, director, Labor & Industries.
  • Cletus Nnanabu, director, Crime Victims Compensation Program.

A sign-language interpreter will be at the event.

For more information about the program, call 1-800-762-3716.

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