Victim Services Unit receives award

An all-volunteer group that operates under the St. Joseph Sheriff’s Department has received a state award.

The Michigan Sheriff’s Association recently recognized St. Joseph County’s Victim Services Unit as the state’s “Unit of the Year.” The award was announced and presented at the conclusion of a Victim Services Unit annual training event in Lansing.

Sheriff Mark Lillywhite said St. Joseph County’s Victim Services Unit coordinator Maxine Kennedy was not aware of St. Joseph County’s award prior to its announcement. Kennedy explained that the 25-member group is comprised of five teams, with at least four people per team.

Kennedy said VSU members are summoned by fire, police or EMTs typically when there is a fatality. VSU teams are present, for example, when a law-enforcement official shows up at the door of a family to announce the grim news that a family member died in a car crash.

Lillywhite said VSU personnel undergo a 20-hour training, followed up by monthly re-training sessions. Lillywhite said advocates must be trained to effectively work with people whose emotions could range from shock to hysterical.

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