Boston, MA - A bill promoted by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and state Representative Byron Rushing that would establish uniform guidelines for healthcare providers to link victims of violence to social services moved a step closer to passage today when the House of Representatives gave its approval.
The Violence Prevention and Intervention bill would require the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to draft voluntary guidelines to help hospitals and community health centers link survivors of violence to services, such as existing programs for alternative education, legal counseling, and housing. Research shows that support services help victims address 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 House for its passage of the bill and urged the Senate to follow suit.
“Boston and every community in this state that recognizes violence as a public health issue understands how important this legislation is to helping break the cycle of violence,’’ Mayor Menino said. “I sincerely hope that the Senate will act swiftly.’’
“With this action we are closer to health care providers establishing intervention systems to connect all victims of violence with intensive social services,’’ said Representative Rushing, the bill’s sponsor. “ As we have seen in the area of domestic violence, health professionals have a unique opportunity, in the aftermath of a violent incident, to link victims with information and services which can help to prevent further violence. The House of Representatives is committed to improving access to services and helping to stem violence statewide.”
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 has won the support of survivors of violence and victim advocates as well as medical providers, public health workers, and community organizations. It has been actively pushed by state Rep. Peter Koutoujian, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health, and the Boston Public Health Commission.
The legislation, which now moves to the Senate, has already garnered support there. State Senator Susan Fargo, who co chairs the Joint Committee on Public Health, said: “This bill is a public health priority, and I will be working with my colleagues to promote its passage and help ensure that Massachusetts remains a public health leader across the nation.”