July 28, 2023 – Carlisle, PA:  The PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) recently awarded Domestic Violence Services of Cumberland & Perry Counties (DVSCP) a $50,000 grant through its Medical Advocacy Program (MAP).  The goal of this program is to provide funding to domestic violence programs like DVSCP who wish to establish and maintain relationships with local healthcare organizations to improve responses to domestic violence.  The relationship between domestic violence agencies and the healthcare community is crucial, given many people seek medical attention of some kind, even if they don’t always report the abuse to law enforcement.

DVSCP plans to use this three-year grant to expand the role of its existing medical advocate. Currently, the position provides education and training to healthcare professionals focused on the free and confidential domestic violence services available, the importance of screening, ways to gently question patients to determine their needs around violence in their lives, and how to respond if it is brought up.  With the new funding, the medical advocate will offer additional trainings to medical providers, focused on issues like strangulation, Traumatic Brain Injuries, abuse in later life, as well as assist in the creation of policies that give clients an opportunity to disclose privately and confidentially in a medical setting.

A major health-related issue facing survivors of domestic violence in Cumberland and Perry Counties is the lack of a protocol/procedure for health professionals by which they would automatically refer victims entering the Emergency Room to DVSCP.  Funds will allow the agency’s Medical Advocate to work with the Cumberland County STOP (Stop Violence Against Women) Team’s Coordinated Care Response Team on the creation of a new protocol to ensure that all victims are made aware of the free services that are available to them and that healthcare professionals automatically call DVSCP when a survivor goes to the emergency room. This newly formed team lends itself to bringing needed resources to the table, as many other agencies are represented who interact with survivors, including medical providers.

While the first year of this new program will focus on healthcare facilities, the agency plans to expand its reach in subsequent years to include dental practices, mental health providers, substance abuse treatment practices, and other health practitioners who may come in contact with survivors.

“Our medical advocate will be able to help survivors make informed decisions about their health, safety, and services available. We want to ask medical facilities to consider moving past the question of “Do you feel safe at home?”  We know domestic violence is much more complicated than that,” commented DVSCP Direct Services Supervisor Stephanie Spurgeon.  “This position allows us the opportunity to have critical conversations with medical staff as well as community members to increase awareness and support.”

For more information about the agency or how you can schedule a training for your business or organization, please visit DVSCP’s website at www.dvscp.org.