Each year, NYSDRA submits a proposal to receive funding from the Interest on Lawyer’s Account. IOLA helps low income people in New York State obtain help with civil legal problems affecting their most basic needs, such as food, shelter, jobs and access to health care. Since its inception in 1983 IOLA has provided more than $228 million in grants for providers of civil legal services or those who improve the administration of justice, furthering the goal of equal access to justice for all.
A portion of the funding NYSDRA receives is distributed to Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC) members through a RFP process. In 2012-2013 many excellent and innovative programs were supported by these funds; following are just a few examples:
Community Mediation Services in Queens County launched a Veterans Mediation Program designed to assist veterans in resolving disputes with family members, co-workers, neighbors, landlords, businesses and employers. The program was developed jointly by the CDRC staff and a court employee who is also a Veteran, and who recently completed basic mediation training. He has been helping to recruit other Veteran mediators who can relate to the problems that their fellow veterans face. CMS and NYSDRA plan to help other CDRCs to replicate the program.
In Orange County, Dispute Resolution Center is working in collaboration with the City of Newburgh to provide mediation training to individuals living in an area challenged by poverty, crime, sub-standard housing, and unemployment. These challenges are further complicated by widespread addiction and gang violence.
Innovative mediation training was developed at Mediation Matters, which serves Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties. When families experience financial strains, the other issues for families - such as teens struggling to stay in school and focused on good choices - are even more difficult to manage. The curriculum in development is designed to equip mediators with skills to work with all families regardless of where they find themselves or the issues with which they struggle. A mediator involved in the program commented, “The families we are working with are struggling with many more layers and we, as mediators, are navigating new challenges.” The training will help the mediators provide more access to a broader process that will impact families struggling with managing their teen's issues.
IOLA funding has also helped support Coalition on Elder Abuse in Dutchess County, a project the Mediation Center of Dutchess County is involved with. Funds have supported staff salaries, outreach initiatives and space rental. For more about this initiative, visit http://www.dutchessmediation.org/coalition-on-elder-abuse-in-dutchess-county.
For the second year, IOLA funding has supported ACCORD, a Center for Dispute Resolution’s Community Education program in Broome and Tioga Counties. In collaboration with the Binghamton Police Department and Family Violence Prevention Council, this program educates vulnerable populations about alternative forms of dispute resolution and how they may help resolve conflicts over the need for adequate shelter, jobs and protection for their children.
NYSDRA just submitted a proposal for the IOLA 2013-2015 grant cycle. By collaborating with UCS ADR/CIP we were able to use statistical information from data submitted by the CDRCs, expand the scope of relevant services, and strengthen our proposal. If we are successful, we hope to provide even more direct and indirect assistance to CDRCs and to low income residents in New York.