County money well spent

Every year the Belmont County Board of Commissioners allocates $20,000 to a local nonprofit, and that appears to be a good investment.

Last week commissioners recognized the role of Harmony House Child Advocacy Center while presenting the organization with its annual allocation of county funds. Based in Wheeling, Harmony House also has a Belmont County location, and that $20,000 from the county general fund helps to keep the Ohio site in operation.

In addition to the annual allocation, Harmony House receives money from Belmont County’s Children’s Services Levy. The total contract for Harmony House in Belmont County this year amounts to $125,000, with $105,000 of that money generated by the levy that voters approved.

Jessica Hartley, an advocate at Harmony House, described the work done by the organization. The center provides forensic analysis of child abuse allegations. The services are provided in cases of physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

“The work that we do is really important to the kids in our community. We’ve been pretty busy lately, which is unfortunate for the community, but because Harmony House exists, these kids that are facing such adversity and trauma have a safe place to go to start their healing process,” Hartley said.

Hartley said Harmony House interviewers specialize in speaking to young people in a non-leading manner. They are trained to work with children ages 2-18, as well as with adults who have developmental disabilities.

“That’s why it’s called a forensic interview, so that it can be used for legal reasons,” she said. “They have a lot of different ways to talk to kids and get them to open up about what’s happened without leading.”

Belmont County Department of Job and Family Service Director Vince Gianangeli said services provided by Harmony House are valuable to his agency.

“Having a forensic analysis of the child abuse, and particularly sexual abuse, that’s really the key to some of our investigations and Harmony House is there is assist in those matters,” he said, adding that such interviews are also valuable in some cases of neglect, unclean homes and disease.

Unfortunately, criminal cases involving children in some way or another are on the rise. That is why we believe the funds allocated by the county represent money well spent.