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911 dispatchers, abuse and assault prevention efforts honored
bt co communications 911
Pictured is the Barton County Communications Office. The Barton County Commission honored 911 dispatchers Monday morning. - photo by Tribune file photo

Commission canvasses votes

Prior to the their agenda meeting Monday morning, Barton County commissioners met as the Board of County Canvassers in the County Clerk’s Office. At that time, they canvassed ballots from the Tuesday, April 5, city general election for Ellinwood, Great Bend and Hoisington and the Ellinwood District Hospital Board of Trustees election.  

The Barton County Commission Monday morning took time to recognized the unsung heroes of 911 and those on the front lines fighting child abuse and sexual assault.

Commissioners approved proclamations marking this as National Public Safety Communications Officers Week, and April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

911 Deputy Director Dena Popp asked that the commission a question Monday morning. “If you have an emergency, who do you call for help?”

In part, the proclamation honors public safety communications officers for their “vital role in protecting the life and property of Barton County citizens.” 

“The first line of defense is 911 dispatchers,” Popp said. “They are the thin gold line.”

These public servants cope with stressful and traumatic situations involving both callers in need and officers on the scene. “It is often perceived as an easy job. It’s not an easy job.”

“How many people stop and think who is behind that desk?” asked commission chairman Don Davis. “You are always there. You are the unsung heroes.”

“April is a big month, as you can tell,” said Family Crisis Center Director Laura Patzner. 

The Child Abuse Prevention Month proclamation stated that child abuse and neglect can be reduced by making sure families have the support needed to raise children in a healthy environment and that there are dedicated individuals and organizations in Barton County working to counter these problems.  

“This is a community problem,” Patzner said. “All citizens need to be involved.”

Locally, the FCC and its affiliated Dell Hayden Memorial Child Advocacy Center, Central Kansas Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Kansas Department of Children and Families, St. Francis Community Services, Child Abuse Prevention and Education, Great Bend Regional Hospital’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) Program, Juvenile Services and law enforcement officers are all involved, she said.

“We wish you didn’t have to be,” Davis said. But, “we’re glad you here.”

The proclamation noted that all children deserved freedom from all forms of abuse, and deserved security, safety and loving homes.   

In addition, April is designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence, Patzner said. The Family Crisis Center provides services for sexual assault survivors at no charge and offers educational and professional training for community members and professionals.  

“Normally, I’d be packing red shoes,” Patzner said of the annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event that calls attention to problem of sexual assault. But, instead this year, the center is bringing in Don McPherson, a retired National Football League quarterback who played with the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Oilers, speaker and sexual assault prevention advocate.

He will come to Great Bend on Tuesday, April 26. This was an opportunity Patzner said they couldn’t miss.

“He will look at sexual assault from a prevention stand point,” Patzner said. He will hold programs in local schools and for business leaders during the day, and for the community as a whole in the evening.

All the events are open to the public at no charge.

“We’re forgoing the red shoes,” she said. “We’ll take up the heels next year.”

But, this problem is about more that fun events, she said.

She cited the following statistics:

• One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.

• One in six boys and one in four girls will be sexual assault before age 19.

• Young people experience heightened rates of sexual violence and youth ages 12 to 17 are 2.5 times more likely to be victims.

• On campus, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.

“Prevention is possible through increased education, awareness and community involvement,” Patzner said.