Landmark Legislation Applauded by Mayor Menino and Public Health Advocates
Massachusetts yesterday became the first state in the nation to require health care providers to link victims of violence to social services when Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill pushed by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and state Representative Byron Rushing to help trauma victims and reduce the likelihood that they will become a victim again.
The Violence Prevention and Intervention bill requires the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to draft voluntary guidelines to help hospitals and community health centers link survivors of violence to alternative education, legal counseling, housing, and other services. Those guidelines will be developed by experts on violence prevention, representatives from DPH and other state agencies, and survivors of violence.
Research shows that support services help victims better cope with the trauma associated with violence and decrease their chances of becoming a victim of violence again.
Mayor Menino, who has made violence prevention a top priority of his administration, applauded the Governor for signing the landmark legislation and the Legislature for its swift passage. “Once again, Massachusetts is showing the rest of the nation that it understands that violence is a public health problem. This law is an example of the benefits that can accrue when cities and states work together to tackle big problems.’’
Representative Rushing, the lead sponsor of the bill, said: "Healing from violence means more than bandaging physical wounds. It means helping individuals and families meet basic social needs to move on to live safe and constructive lives. This law recognizes that health care workers can and should be a vital line of support when it matters most in this healing."
There are currently no statewide provider protocols for assisting victims of intentional violence, such as domestic violence and street violence. Advocates say it makes sense that health care settings, where victims are being treated for their wounds, provide clinical intervention that might help stem further violence or keep the victim from becoming a statistic again. The bill had the support of survivors of violence and victim advocates as well as medical providers, public health workers, and community organizations. It had been actively pushed by state Rep. Peter Koutoujian, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health, and the Boston Public Health Commission.
“Ensuring that victims of violence get help whether it be with housing, drug treatment, or educational assistance will mean that fewer people will be revictimized and we can start to interrupt the vicious cycle of violence that is destroying families,’’ said Tina Chery, founder and director of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, an organization dedicated to supporting families of homicide victims.
Esta Soler, president of the San Francisco-based Family Fund Prevention Fund, a national education and advocacy organization that was instrumental in passing the 1994 federal Violence Against Women Act, said Massachusetts becomes the first state in the nation to have such a law. "Whether a victim of violence gets help from a health care provider should not be left to chance," said Soler. "We commend Massachusetts for leading the way in promoting the kind of access and consistency of support services that should be replicated across the nation."
- BPHC -
June 5, 2008