Community Health Workers to help domestic violence victims in Kent, Sussex Counties

DELAWARE РVictims of domestic violence in the Kent and Sussex Counties have more help on the way. Tuesday, The Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCADV) announced the expansion of its Domestic Violence Community Health Worker Project.

Expanding the Project

“For many, many victims of domestic violence, the first responder is not law enforcement. It is their medical provider. Their physician or a nurse hears about the violence, and they can tell from the patient’s health that there is something unsafe in the home,” said DCADV Executive Director Sue Ryan. “The Domestic Violence Community Health Worker Project connects medical providers to community health workers, who can then address safety in the home.”

The expansion is being made possible by teaming up with Medicaid and Amerihealth Caritas, and a donation from the Longwood Foundation. “This new, innovative funding model is really laying the groundwork for sustainability,” said Ryan.

Two Community Health Workers (CHWs), certified by the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH), ChristianaCare, or Delaware Technical Community College will work with the victims.

“CHWs are often recognized in their communities as intermediaries. We recognize them also as public health professionals. They are an extension of what we do,” said Lisa Henry with DPH. “Community health workers help us achieve our mission to protect and promote the health of all people in Delaware, and our vision to have healthy people in healthy communities.”

Ramping Up Resources

Ryan says those CHWs will provide a variety of different kinds of help to victims.

“The domestic violence community health workers are mobile, trauma-informed domestic violence advocates, who meet with victims of domestic violence in the community in safe locations, and then address health and safety,” said Ryan. “The bottom line is community health workers have an impact because of their access to services and the connections to those services.”

The program has been running strong in New Castle County for a number of years. Blanche Creech, Associate Director of Domestic Violence and Community Services at People’s Place says having the two CHWs on the ground in lower Delaware will make a world of difference for victims.

“We receive requests from domestic violence victims every night, every day. The needs are really just overwhelming,” said Creech. “There are many opportunities with health providers who can screen and connect victims to domestic violence services.”

Advocates are hoping this expansion will especially help those living in underserved communities. “The majority of the individuals who are served are Black and Hispanic women with children, and the majority reside in healthy women healthy babies high risk zones,” said Ryan.

Mental Health and Physical Health

While providing victim services is an important aspect of the project, advocates say it can also improve overall health outcomes. This has been proven through the continued success of the program, says Maite Aros of Child Inc. and the CHW Association of Delaware Coordinating Council.

“[Victims] were sharing that they experienced chronic pain, they had diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, they were stressed, they were depressed, they have anxiety,” said Aros. “Many of them would complain about this, but they didn’t have access to services, either because they didn’t have transportation, they were isolated, they didn’t have health insurance.”

In fact, data from DCADV shows victims who worked with CHWs were less likely to have 25 or more poor physical and mental health days in the last 30 days. “All of those who have been served have reported improvement in their quality of life, and a reduction in poor health days,” said Ryan.

Beyond improving physical health, Creech says knowing support is there can also improve victims’ quality of life. “This relationship that gets developed is based on trust that’s built over time. The relationship can occur for a long period of time,” she said. “Survivors that go through community health worker support advocacy have increased hope for the future. If we can’t inspire some sense of hope in the people we’re working with, that’s a real concern.”

A Long Time Coming

While the expansion is just beginning, advocates say the mission has been a long time coming. Between its founding in 1939 and 1969, the Journal of Marriage and Family did not list violence in the titles of its articles.

“Even after the curtain began to get pulled away about the magnitude of the social problem, it still took enormous effort on behalf of activists, advocates, victims, survivors, and domestic violence agencies… to really address domestic violence, as well as acts of crime,” said Rita Landgraf of the University of Delaware’s Partnership for Healthy Communities.

It was not until 1994 that the Violence Against Women Act was passed. “That really helped to build that criminal justice system response, and provides important services to victims of domestic violence that are still critical today,” said Landgraf.

However, Landgraf says there was still even more work to be done. In 2002, the World Health Organization published the first-ever comprehensive global review on domestic violence. And, Landgraf says that work only continues.

“Think about it. This was just 20 years ago,” said Landgraf. “But, in that span of 20 years, the Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence has consistently been on the forefront in helping Delaware and the nation better understand domestic violence as a matter of public health.”

Brighter Future

Delaware Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long says she is proud of the First State for expanding domestic violence victim resources. However, it will take a village to make it even more successful.

“There is nothing more important than using the model of community health with domestic violence to show those real results in not only health and economics, but in our community,” said Lt. Gov. Hall-Long. “We have a new model. But, it’s not going to succeed without each of us leaning in.”

Categories: Delaware, Health, Local News