- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York paid $20 million last year to crime victims to help cover medical bills, counseling, damaged property and other out-of-pocket expenses, including those of a man who was paralyzed in a drive-by shooting.

The state’s program is funded by criminals through fines, fees and surcharges imposed in federal and state courts.

Other states have similar programs, but New York officials say theirs is the only one with no cap on medical and counseling expenses.

David Snowden, 50, says he doesn’t know how much the state has reimbursed him for uncovered expenses since he was seriously injured in the 1991 drive-by shooting in Queens in which he was not the intended target, but it’s been “a lot.”

Expenses include lost wages, modifications to his condominium, medical co-payments, deductibles and wheelchair replacement and repair costs. Snowden was vice president for disabled services at Madison Square Garden, but is now retired because of his medical issues. He recently made a public service announcement to call attention to New York’s program.

“I have private insurance. Basically they cover anything that private insurance doesn’t cover,” said Snowden, who now lives in Atlanta. He had to have documentation and receipts showing his expenses and that they were medically necessary. “They take care of me,” he said.

New York is considered the payer of last resort and handled 8,000 claims last year, said Janine Kava, spokeswoman for the Office of Victim Services. The fund also pays funeral, relocation and emergency shelter expenses and funds a network of 223 victim assistance programs statewide that will receive almost $44 million this year to provide services like counseling, crisis intervention, advocacy and legal aid.

Snowden said he doesn’t know who shot him five times in the back and arm and also shot a teenage girl that night. He said he wasn’t part of the gang world that was believed to be involved and doesn’t know if anyone was ever arrested or prosecuted.

Prosecutions and convictions aren’t required to make victim compensation claims, though police reports of the crimes are required, Kava said. Payments are intended for innocent victims.

Lisa Gilbert, whose 2-year-old daughter suffered brain injuries from a baby-sitter, and Theresa Sareo, who lost her leg when she was run down on a street corner by an impaired New York City driver, said Tuesday the fund was critical in helping them get needed care and equipment and move their lives forward.

“I would not be the productive, successful and strong woman that I am today without the continuum of support from OVS,” said Sareo, a singer and songwriter. “My medical, emotional and prosthetic needs are an everyday negotiation.”

The fund also paid $4.1 million for more than 5,200 rape exams last year at medical facilities, which bill the state directly instead of victims or their insurers, according to the division.

Director Elizabeth Cronin said they hope new public service announcements will prompt more victims to file claims. Her office received 16,000 claims last year, while police reported more than 388,000 serious crimes statewide.

The fund was first established by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller following the 1965 fatal stabbing of Arthur F. Collins, a 28-year-old computer programmer for Pan American Airways, on a New York City subway. Collins had gone to the aid of women passengers who were being threatened by an apparently drunken man. His wife, who witnessed the murder while holding their daughter, sent the toddler to live with her grandmother because she couldn’t afford to keep her.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that his administration is committed to continuing the office’s work.

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Online:

https://ovs.ny.gov/

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