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Heffelfinger named to Family Advocacy Center Board

Former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger has joined the board of directors of the Family Advocacy Center of Northern Minnesota.

Now in private practice with Best & Flanagan LLP, where he worked prior to becoming a U.S. Attorney, Heffelfinger was one of the forces in developing the Family Advocacy Center at North Country Regional Hospital.

"The Family Advocacy Center of Northern Minnesota owes its very existence to Tom Heffelfinger," said Jim Hanko, board member of the center and CEO of North Country Health Services, in a press release. "His leadership and drive were instrumental in moving the center from concept to reality. His fingerprints are everywhere. There's no one more appropriately on the Family Advocacy Center Board than Tom."

Hanko added that he is also personally excited to have Heffelfinger on the board.

The center, a collaboration of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and non-Indian governments and private entities, was created to serve all citizens of northern Minnesota, including residents of the Red Lake, Leech Lake and White Earth nations. It provides medical examinations and treatment by specially trained medical personnel for victims of child abuse, domestic abuse or rape. It also provides forensic interviews of victims, witnesses and non-offending family members, as well as mental health assessments and treatment for victims and their family members. Since the opening in January, several dozen children have already been seen for treatment.

"The future of a community lies in its children and the women who nurture those children, so we must break the cycle of violence inherent in child abuse and domestic abuse," said Heffelfinger in a press release. "But we can't do it by arresting our way out. The work being done at the Family Advocacy Center -- focusing first on treating the victim's physical and mental health, gathering evidence second -- is the key, and I think over a generation we'll see change. I am proud to continue my role with the center, now as a director on the board."

The Family Advocacy Center of Northern Minnesota is a nonprofit corporation and qualifies as a public charity. It is a hospital-based, culturally sensitive center established for the primary purpose of providing specialized physical and mental health treatment to the victims of child abuse, domestic abuse and rape.

"I'm really excited about it," Heffelfinger said of his appointment in a telephone interview from his Twin Cities office. "The center grew out of an idea a couple of my assistants had. I embraced it. I think it's safe to say the U.S. Attorney's Office brought the various disparate entities together."

He said he has a strong interest in American Indian issues, and his law practice is about 50 percent with Indians. The board membership is also a natural fit, Heffelfinger said, because Best & Flanagan performed the pro bono (for free) work to set up the center. He said he also has served on a number of non-profit boards, including the American Red Cross when it was raising money for a new building.

"Not only do I understand the mission of the organization real well, I can help them with fund raising," Heffelfinger said of the Family Advocacy Center.