KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin announced Friday that the Kentucky State Police will soon launch a new initiative that focuses on giving support and care to victims of violent and traumatic crimes.

The program, Victim Advocate Support Services, is designed to serve as a liaison between law enforcement and victims.  

Victim advocates will be hired for KSP's 16 posts throughout the state to connect victims to mental health services, crisis intervention or legal support as soon as they need it, the release said. One advocate will be assigned per post. 

KSP will be one of the first state police agencies to have this kind of advocate program statewide, the release said. 

Gov. Bevin said in the release he believes this program will provide care and support to crime victims who need it the most.

"I am proud of KSP for leading the charge to ensure that every single state police post in the Commonwealth has a trained advocate that can provide compassionate care and essential resources to victims of crime,” he said. 

KSP Commissioner Rick Sanders echoed Bevins' feelings about the launch of the program in the release. 

"Last year, our agency opened more than 8,000 criminal cases involving more than 10,000 victims,” he said. “Many of these victims have experienced severe trauma and need support from a trained advocate. Although, our troopers are compassionate, they must use their training to immediately investigate the crime or assist with a critical incident as it is unfolding, and having a trained advocate at each post will allow victims to receive immediate support.” 

The federal Department of Justice’s Victims of Crime Advocacy granted KSp $2.5 million for the VASS program. KSP matched the grant with $632,000 from KSP.

In addition to paying for the advocates, the money will provide transportation and training on trauma-centered care, compassion fatigue, and victim advocacy for VASS staff.

“We want to empower victims right from the start," said Kentucky Justice Secretary John Tilley in the release. "Enduring a traumatic event is overwhelming enough without having to worry about navigating the complexities of the criminal justice system." 

KSP said in the release that it is currently hiring VASS staff and will start to offer services as soon as the hiring process is complete.