Tuesday, June 25, 2019 Medina 74°
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Do not turn a blind eye to sex abuse, Medina County officials urge

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    Rhonda Wurgler, left, executive director of the Childrens Center of Medina County, and Jeff Felton, director of Medina County Job and Family Services, said everyone has a moral obligation to protect the communitys children. They said if you suspect child abuse, pick up the phone and report it. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. They reported to Medina County commissioners at their meeting Tuesday about an increase in reported cases.

    BOB FINNAN / GAZETTE

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    Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson said he's against getting a ruling from the state attorney general in the Medina County Drug Advisory Committees snafu. The Medina County Drug Advisory Committee improperly handled funding several agencies in the county for as long as 30 years. Thompson spoke Tuesday to Medina County commissioners.

    BOB FINNAN / GAZETTE

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MEDINA — Ther were 133 cases of sex abuse last year in Medina County.

Rhonda Wurgler, executive director of the Children’s Center of Medina County, said that was an increase from 2017 when 103 cases were reported.

“We need to recognize that sex abuse occurs in Medina County,” Wurgler said at the Medina County commissioners meeting Tuesday. “We need to have some efforts to prevent it.”

The Children’s Center works in tandem with Medina County Job and Family Services.

“We have to recognize that it does exist here and that it is the community’s responsibility to report any concerns to our agencies so we can intervene and make sure the children are safe,” Job and Family Services Director Jeff Felton said.

Wurgler said not any one agency can do it alone.

“It takes a community to raise a child,” she said.

The Children’s Center will be conducting awareness training to help people report abuse.

“The more we get information out, the more comfortable people will be to make those phone calls,” Wurgler said.

“We depend on neighbors, friends, community leaders, organizations. Children depend on that. If they are being abused at home, they might be depending on that first-grade teacher to make that phone call. They are not the ones who will make the phone call. We have to do it for them. We are their protectors. We are eyes and ears.”

Felton said he’d rather get nine or 10 invalid calls than let one child abuse case slip through the cracks.

“We encourage everyone to make a report,” he said. “That way we can do our jobs and investigate.”

He said people can make reports anonymously. He said they’d rather people leave their phone numbers so his office can do some follow-up, but it’s not necessary.

“You don’t want to regret not making that phone call,” Wurgler said. “You can intervene and make a difference in that child’s life. If you have a gut instinct that something is happening, make the phone call and let the experts decide whether a case should be opened.

If you suspect a child is being abused, call Job and Family Services at (330) 661-0800.

For years, the Children’s Center hosted a pinwheel walk on Medina Square to bring awareness to child abuse. The nonprofit agency is not holding the event this year since it has been busy moving into its new location at 723 E. Smith Road.

When the center has its grand opening in June, Wurgler said it will plant 823 pinwheels in its front yard. That’s how many child abuse calls came into the agency in the last year. She said that’s an increase of about 200 from 2017.

“That’s good news because more kids are getting to the services that they need,” Wurgler said.

Commissioners presented Wurgler and Felton with a resolution proclaiming April as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.

The Children’s Center was established in 2005 to enhance the coordination and implementation of special services required by children of sexual abuse.

Job and Family Services investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect and providing foster-care to those children who cannot remain safely in their own homes, and to provide any services needed to meet the emotional needs of the abused and neglected children.

In other news

  • Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson is not a fan of reaching out to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost for his opinion on the Medina County Drug Advisory Committee improperly funding several agencies in the county for as long as 30 years.
    Education and treatment options are not permitted to be funded, according to the statute. Yet, it went on for almost three decades.
    Commissioner Pat Geissman had asked Thompson to seek a ruling from Yost.
    “My concern is that was the language on the ballot,” she said. “People voted on what they thought was education and treatment … and it passed. Why can’t this money be spent on how people voted on it to be spent?”
    Thompson said the AG’s vetting process is very thorough and would take as long as six to 10 months to hear back from Yost’s office.
    “We did our research before we came forward with this,” he said. “The mystery is how it got certified (on the ballot). I don’t know how it happened.
    “We already know we’re wrong. I don’t want a formalized opinion from the attorney general’s office telling us we’re wrong. I can’t put it any more bluntly. I don’t think it’s going to get us anywhere. There is nothing to clarify. The statute is abundantly clear. I don’t see the merit for the attorney general’s office to formalize that issue.”
    County Administrator Scott Miller said the earliest the levy can go back on the ballot is November 2020. It won’t be a renewal levy since the language will be completely changed to reflect paying police services for drug enforcement.
    Thompson said it might require two separate levies, with the other dealing with education and treatment.
  • Brian Feron, president of the Medina County Historical Society, asked commissioners Tuesday for $10,000 to apply to the purchase of the McDowell-Phillips House. The historical society has a letter of intent to purchase the house for about $300,000 from Miriam and Drew Phillips.
    The historical society also has asked commissioners for an annual stipend of $25,000 to help with operating expenses.
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or rfinnan@medina-gazette.com.
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