Tracking COVID-19 Impacts and Legal Needs in Colorado

by Anne P. DePrince & Adi Rosenthal

As the world reeled from the first wave of the coronavirus in the Spring, lots of conversations turned towards concern about the impact on victims/survivors and victim service agencies.

To track these concerns, we started to ask victim service providers to share what they saw as the biggest coronavirus impacts on victims/survivors and their agencies. Since May, we have asked these questions each month as part of our collaboration with LINC — the Legal Information Network of Colorado.

Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve learned so far from providers’ responses.

A Preliminary Snapshot of COVID-19 Impacts

Each month’s data reflect the views of about 20 victim service providers, many of whom work in and around the Denver Metro Area.

First, let’s look at what providers have to say about impacts on clients. The figure below shows the percent of responses that fell into five of the themes that emerged. The most common theme since May have been concerns about clients’ getting their economic/basic needs met (yellow line). This is consistent with providers’ ongoing concerns about whether clients have enough resources (orange line).

As illustrated above, providers also noted impacts on victims/survivors in terms of changes to the court systems and technological challenges. These two issues are, of course, inter-related as victims/survivors (as well as lawyers and advocates) have worked to keep pace with technology used in remote adaptations to COVID-19 that have varied across jurisdictions.

Next, let’s look at what providers have noticed about impacts on agencies. As illustrated below, one of the clearest and most persistent impacts on agencies has been the lack of face-to-face contact, which can make providing services more difficult and be more isolating for staff.

The figure above also shows concerns early on about public-facing communications as agencies worked to make clients aware of options and get information out remotely. Those impacts looked like they were dropping off in August and September, but seem to have resurfaced in October as COVID-19 cases increased and many communities began to anticipate new restrictions. Echoing impacts on clients directly, providers also noted that agencies are affected by changes to the court system and limited resources for clients.

What’s Next? Monitoring Legal Needs around the State

We’ll keep asking about COVID-19 impacts, particularly as the Fall’s record number of cases ushers in growing uncertainty. We will also continue ongoing efforts to monitor crime victims’ legal needs in Colorado. You may have heard someone asking you to fill out a survey on barriers facing clients to getting their legal needs met. When you and colleagues fill out those surveys, we summarize the responses for the LINC Steering Committee for use in guiding the development and implementation of LINC.

In addition to our ongoing work, we are gathering input from victims/survivors and providers about legal needs and barriers facing clients outside the Metro Denver area. We are in the process of inviting Colorado agencies to share information about the survey with clients and staff. This short survey study closes on December 1, 2020. For more information, reach out to us at legalstudy@du.edu.

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