HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The first round of grants to combat child sexual abuse in Pennsylvania was awarded Wednesday from a $48 million fund endowed by Penn State as a result of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.
The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency voted to give 44 entities $3.4 million. The money will go toward hiring forensic interviewers and victim advocates, improving access to trauma therapists and helping people get counseling in underserved areas, among other things.
The university agreed to pay the money under a settlement with the NCAA over its handling of the Sandusky scandal, and a state law requires the money to remain in Pennsylvania.
"Out of these heinous acts can come some hope for our children, and the victims and survivors," said commission chairman Josh Shapiro.
The commission said 93 applicants sought a total of $7 million, and those that did not get funded can reapply in the next round, which may begin in January. No more than $24 million can be distributed in the first five years, after which grants will be paid out of the earnings of what remains.
The newly awarded grants will help establish child advocacy centers in Blair and Clearfield counties, and one for Wyoming and Susquehanna counties. The centers bring together law enforcement and child welfare experts to respond to allegations of child abuse.
Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, who led a task force that recommended legislative changes to address child abuse following the Sandusky and clergy abuse scandals, said a child advocacy center in the State College area could have resulted in charges a decade earlier if it had been in place when Sandusky was abusing children.
Centre County now has a child advocacy center, and it received a $100,000 grant to improve its programs.
Sandusky, the university's former assistant football coach, is appealing after being sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for child molestation.