Costello, Dingell Lead Bipartisan Effort To Address Health Care, Violence Against Women

December 4, 2018 by TWN Staff
Native American Women attend a healing circle recently in the longhouse at the Hibulb Cultural Center on the Tulalip Reservation, where women gathered to discuss violence against women and to promote passage in Congress of the Violence Against Women Act. (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times/MCT)

As the 115th Congress comes to a close and the Democrats prepare to take control of the House in January, Representatives Ryan Costello (PA-06) and Debbie Dingell (MI-12) continue to push forward on addressing women’s health care as it pertains to domestic violence and sexual assault. On Tuesday, they joined Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Mimi Walters (R-CA), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and John Katko (R-NY) in introducing the Violence Against Women Health Act.

The bipartisan legislation would strengthen the health care system’s identification, assessment and response to domestic violence, sexual assault and dating violence survivors with an expanded focus on accessing behavioral health and safety resources across the lifespan. If enacted, it would build upon the 2013 Violence Against Women Act’s (VAWA) health title, a prevention and response initiative that trains health care providers and strengthens collaborations between public health and domestic violence agencies to better identify and serve victims of violence. The VAWA Health Program has trained more than 13,000 health care providers to assess for and respond to domestic and sexual violence in over 230 clinical settings serving more than 1.3 million patients.

“Growing a network of medical professionals who are trained to spot signs of abuse will strengthen communities. Children and elders can be survivors too, we need to think outside the box on how to prevent violence across the spectrum,” said Costello.

Studies show a strong correlation between those receiving mental health and substance abuse services and the likelihood of domestic violence as a root cause. Between 31 and 67 percent of women in substance use disorder treatment programs report experiencing domestic violence within the past year and over 50 percent of survivors of domestic violence have experienced depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. More collaboration is needed between health systems and community advocates to ensure victims have the support they need to escape the abuse and improve their overall health and safety.

“There is no reason a survivor should face hurdles when trying to connect with the services they need to recover. Medical professionals of all kinds can save lives through a referral to the appropriate domestic violence and sexual assault community services. Our bipartisan legislation brings together the fragmented mental health and domestic violence systems so we can best serve survivors,” added Dingell.

The legislation is supported by the American Academy of Neurology, American Psychological Association, American Geriatrics Society, American Association of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, YWCA USA, Futures Without Violence, National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health, DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Ujima: The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence in the Black Community and National Network to End Domestic Violence.

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