"Project Connect has changed me, changed my approach to public health. I see the connections and how violence left unaddressed undermines each new effort to promote health. Violence isn’t a safety checkbox on an intake form. No longer do I wonder, 'Why isn’t this working' when I’m considering program outcomes but, 'how can violence be effectively addressed.' Thank you for this mindset."
Since 2010, Futures Without Violence (“Futures”) and the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (“OWH”) have worked in partnership on Project Connect: A Coordinated Public Health Initiative to Prevent and Respond to Violence Against Women (Project Connect), a national initiative to build collaborations between the public health and domestic violence fields to improve the public health response to domestic and sexual violence. Through a competitive application process, eleven teams of public health and domestic violence leaders were selected in December 2012 to implement the initiative from January 2013-December 2015. As the technical assistance provider, Futures provides support and oversight for all sites, facilitates the Project Connect learning community, develops all program and training materials, and works closely with the contracted evaluation team at University of Pittsburgh to measure the effect of Project Connect on state and local policy, individual clinical practice, and patients’ experience.
The five health sites serving Native communities and six states selected as Project Connect grantees are:
- Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- Idaho Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
- Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians (Michigan)
- Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
- Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women
- Nooksack Tribal Health Clinic (Washington)
- Oregon Health Authority
- Passamaquoddy Health Center (Maine)
- Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- The Queen’s Medical Center (Hawaii)
- Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California (Nevada)
Phase One of Project Connect (April 2010-August 2012) included nine geographically and ethnically diverse grantees across the nation:
- Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- Ohio Domestic Violence Network
- Iowa Department of Public Health
- Maine Family Planning Association
- Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence
- Texas Council on Family Violence
- Virginia Department of Health
- Kima:w Medical Center/Hoopa Valley Tribe (California).
For a PDF of a PowerPoint presentation featuring policy change success from Project Connect Phase One grantees, click here.
These sites provide much-needed services for women in abusive relationships including historically medically underserved communities that have high rates of domestic and sexual violence, such as rural/frontier areas, immigrant women, and Native Americans. Their teams will work at multiple levels to develop policy and clinical responses to domestic and sexual violence in women’s health programs. In addition, the initiative provides tools and resources for domestic violence advocates to integrate health services into their programs.
Futures has developed comprehensive training curricula, healthcare provider resources, and patient education materials to be used in family planning, adolescent health, home visitation and other maternal and child health settings. In addition, domestic violence advocates have received training on integrating basic health assessments into their programs, and several local programs have begun offering medical services on-site. Materials developed for and used by Project Connect sites can be found here.
- Over 5,000 providers have been trained on an evidence-based safety card intervention including direct assessment for reproductive coercion and IPV, clinical harm reduction strategies, and warm referrals advocates when abuse is identified.
“I was comfortable asking because I had resources to share and knew who I could call if the client needed more help than I could give.”
- Project Connect provider in Michigan
- Over 60% of Project Connect trained providers report direct assessment for reproductive coercion and IPV at least 75% of the time.
- Over 65,000 safety cards have been distributed during clinic visits—providers have not simply been handing patients the safety cards, but initiating conversations about reproductive coercion and IPV, and offering links to resources when indicated.
“In the two days after the training I started asking about healthy relationships using the teen safety card, and every one of the patients disclosed some form of violence in their past or present relationship.”
- Project Connect provider in Maine
- In family planning settings, over 60% of patients responded yes to “My healthcare provider would know what to do if I were in an unhealthy relationship” and knowledge of local DV resources increased from 65% to 79%.
“They [the clinicians] were just like, ‘do you have any friends that have ever been abused or have you ever been abused?’ Regardless if you say yes or no…they’ll still hand you the cards. I think it’s a good idea, ‘cause they tell you, if you ever need any help or if anyone you know needs any help, do you mind passing this on?”
- Patient seeing Project Connect provider
Policy and systems change
- Mandatory provider training, use of safety card intervention, and formalized partnerships with local DV programs for state teen pregnancy prevention, family planning and home visitation programs.
- Questions about reproductive coercion added to state public health program intake forms.
- Clinic policy changes in pilot sites to require provider training, safety card intervention, and formal relationships with local DV programs.
For more information about Project Connect, contact Virginia Duplessis.
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