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Victim Witness Program offers services to Rancho Tehama

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RANCHO TEHAMA, Calif. - As the community of Rancho Tehama took the first steps towards recovery, the Rancho Tehama District Attorney's Office was there to offer help.

Staff with the DA's Victim Witness Program set up shop at the Recreation Center in Rancho Tehama from 2 p.m.- 7 p.m. Thursday. They offered all victims an application to apply for the program.

"There's all kinds of different things that can kick off trauma later in life," said Jeff Eldred with the Victim Witness Office.

Anyone who saw, heard or came in any sort of contact with the shooter, Kevin Neal, is eligible.

By applying, the family of those were injured will have all of their medical costs paid for. Those who lost loved ones will get $5,000 to go towards funeral costs.

The program will also provide free counseling to the students and other witnesses who weren't physically harmed.

"In 10 years from now, when they're 16, 17 and they hear of another school shooting and it brings back some trauma to them, this program can still pay for their counseling at that time," said Jeff Eldred with the Victim Witness Office. "So they can go back to a counselor later in life, this is a program that will follow them."

Just two days after experiencing the most traumatic event of their lives, a handful of Rancho Tehama Elementary School kids were playing at the Recreation Center, happy and carefree as their parents received help.

But this is a service Sandra Wells said her daughter will be utilizing now.

"She was right there watching as her friend got shot, as the bullets were coming through and everything," Wells explained.

As a parent, Wells said she needs help too. "I signed myself up because there's questions she's asking and I don't know how to reply or how to respond to her, I don't know what to say."

Some are heartbreaking questions that really don't even have an answer. "She told me mommy, I thought you told me there weren't going to be bad guys there. I didn't know how to react to that," Wells explained.

This is a nationwide program funded by the restitution fines criminals are ordered to pay when sentenced. Staff said they will be at the Recreation Center again after Thanksgiving. Those who can't make it, or don't want to wait until then, can call the Victim Witness Office at 530-527-4296.

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