Combining forces, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest and the Center for Community Solutions (CCS) have formed a powerful partnership called Revive: Recognizing and Empowering Victims in Violent Environments.
CCS is focused on intimate partner violence (IPV) and sexual assault; its shelters are often located near our health centers. They reached out to Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest to collaborate on the Revive grant, which improved victim-screening techniques in our health centers and linked survivors with crucial resources.
“If these patients have any concerns or need birth control, we can streamline the process,” said Chrissy Cmorik, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest education outreach program manager.
CCS hired a Health Advocate, Cynthia Melchor, to work specifically with our health centers. When our staff screen for IPV and then ask patients if they’d like to talk to someone, Cynthia can come right over or set up a call or appointment.
“Sometimes our patients aren’t ready to talk to her right away. They might talk once, drift, come back. But Cynthia is there to meet people where they are,” said Chrissy.
Planned Parenthood providers often need to ask personal questions that may be triggering for a victim of IPV. Through Revive, they’ve learned effective ways to talk with these patients.
“CCS comes to our health centers and tells us what to look for and how to screen compassionately,” said Chrissy. “We learn to make sure we’re not inadvertently shaming patients.”
In turn, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest gives presentations to CCS staff regarding our services, including trainings on STI testing and treatment, and information about birth control and safety planning (due to potential reproductive coercion by intimate partners).
Among key learnings from the program is that a health center “Domestic Violence Advocate” should instead be called a “Health Advocate,” as many patients do not self-identify as victims of domestic violence.
Another learning is that survivors of IPV have higher STI and pregnancy rates than the general population and need more resources in these areas.
The Revive grant was originally a two-year grant, but the program has been so successful that it’s being funded for a 3rd year and will continue through this summer.
“The plan is to continue the partnership, understanding the importance of engaging health care providers in culturally responsive and trauma informed conversations,” said Alejandra Aguilar, M.A. at CCS.
“We’re doing far more informal referrals and giving out a lot of information about healthy relationships through this partnership,” Chrissy said. “Not only are we able to give patients the best care and be compassionate listeners, but we can connect them with the resources they need. Cynthia can do it all. We trust her, and our health centers can get back to work so our other patients won’t have to wait.”
Last year, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest referred 74 patients to CCS (up from 33 patients in 2015). They’ve referred 16 patients this year to date.
“For us, Planned Parenthood has been a trailblazer when it comes to healthcare providers engaged in the promotion of healthy relationships,” said Alejandra. “It has been such a pleasure to build this partnership, knowing that the center of it is the patients.”
(Photo: Marcella Maggio, Alejandra Aguilar, Chrissy Cmorik, and Cynthia Melchor)