A program that began in 2013 to put advocates on the front lines to help victims of intimate partner abuse continues to gain statewide and national attention.
The Battered Persons Advocacy in Roseburg started the Health Care Project with the goal of placing advocates into emergency departments at local health care facilities, giving them a chance to help victims much earlier in the process.
Once violence is disclosed to health care providers, advocates can be called in immediately for safety planning and crucial education about available resources.
“If they (medical providers) get a disclosure of violence, they can pull the advocate in and be able to hand off the patient to the advocate and do safety planning plus access resources, so we’re helping providers understand how they can utilize us within the clinic,” said Melanie Prummer, director of the Battered Persons Advocacy.
Under the Health Care Project, advocates provide victims with information and resources for increasing income, legal support, accessing housing, food, clothing, transportation, support groups and child care.
Now the program, already in use by other agencies throughout Oregon, is gaining notice from other states as well, Prummer said. A manual is now available to guide other states how to implement their own programs. The Battered Persons Advocacy recently conducted a study with the help of Portland State University about the benefits of collaboration with health care providers.
Prummer said the BPA continues to see positive results from the Health Care Project that relies on partnerships with health care providers including Aviva Health, Mercy Medical Center Emergency Room and South River Community Health Center in Winston.
“We’re seeing patients there who probably never would have accessed services before,” Prummer said. “So if medical professionals are setting up appointments to meet with us, that can often be safer getting access that way.
Advocates in the program must go through specific training to get certified by the Oregon Department of Human Services to become Certified Community Health Workers.
“Melanie has made a big push for us to do trauma-informed training so we take into consideration the impacts of trauma on how people react and act to their circumstances,” said Rachelle Capone, a healthy relationships coordinator for the BPA.
Stacy Whittington, a healthy relationships coordinator for the BPA, hopes changes can be made at a state level to benefit advocates.
“Hopefully down the road we can get some legislation around ways to pay advocates to do the work in health care settings while maintaining their certified advocate status,” Whittington said.
The Health Care Project was created because of the increased recognition that intimate partner violence can result in serious and often long-term adverse effects for the victim and for health care system.
Prummer said she is grateful for the help of community partners, including the Umpqua Health Alliance (one of the first to help fund the project) and The Ford Family Foundation.
In April, Whittington will share the results of the study authored by the BPA and Portland State University to health professionals involved in domestic violence issues during the National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence in Chicago.
For information on Battered Persons Advocacy services call 541-673-7867.