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Local advocacy group concerned for sexual assault victims after payment policy changes

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A decision by the McLennan County District Attorney's Office to change who pays for sexual assault examinations has a local victims organization concerned. The group is worried the change in policy may effect how sexual assaults are handled in the future.

McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna sent out an email last Friday regarding new procedures on how law enforcement officials should handle payments made for sexual assault examinations.

Instead of local law enforcement agencies needing authorization for payment from the DA's office. The DA's office says they can do it on their own now.

This raises a great concern for the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children, who say smaller law enforcement agencies might not have the budget to support examinations and avoid them all together.

"My greatest fear is that victims are not going to get the help that they need when they need it," Amy Perkins, Executive Director of the Advocacy Center, said.

Why would they avoid conducting the examinations? Because law enforcement agencies will need to ask the Attorney General's office for a reimbursement, which may result in the agencies having to pay for the difference.

"Just like any insurance company its not always a 100 percent that they are reimbursed," Perkins said. "So any deficit is something that will have to be absorbed by each individual law enforcement agency in their budget."

Reyna acknowledges the concerns of the Advocacy Center and small law enforcement agencies.

In his email statement he says, "I understand that there exists a potential to cut expenses by avoiding sexual assault examinations. I would strongly discourage this practice on behalf of victims in our county."

In a phone conversation with News Channel 25, Reyna says several other counties across the state have similar procedures and don't require the DA's office to be involved at all. He says the new system is smoother and faster, and could lead to quicker results.

Reyna says the office know of 8 to 10 exams since Friday that have gone on without a hitch.

But the concerns still exist for the Advocacy Center and they say they will continue to do everything they can to fight for victim's rights.

"It's not about the money, of course that does impact us, we can only do it for so long," Perkins said. "But ultimately I want to make sure the victims get the care that they need and the level of services that they need."

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