Coordinated Community Responses to Domestic Violence in Six Communities: Beyond the Justice System. Other Community Agencies and Services


Other community agencies interact to some extent with domestic violence service providers, although they historically have not been part of the established domestic violence network. For example, one shelter does outreach to churches, temples, English as a second language (ESL) programs, and health clinics to discuss domestic violence and the shelter's services, based on the assumption that face-to-face contact with these providers was important in building relationships. The shelter has also established an informal relationship with a transitional housing program in the community that used to deny services to non-English speaking people. The shelter advocated for its clients with this program and has had some success in overcoming this problem. Although interactions between domestic violence organizations and other community agencies have traditionally been somewhat limited, the Family Violence Council draws its membership from a broad base and may increase dialogue between these groups.

The community's response to domestic violence is affected by shortages of services in some areas, particularly transitional housing and mental health. There are two transitional housing programs for battered women and their children after they leave emergency shelter. However, these two programs, both of which are Consortium members, are insufficient to serve all women needing services. Many respondents felt that the severe shortage of transitional housing limits the options for battered women leaving emergency shelter.

It has recently become more difficult for battered women to obtain mental health services due to the shift to managed care for publicly-funded health services. Public mental health agencies can no longer accept clients who are referred directly by the shelter or who request services themselves. Instead, a "gatekeeper", who is usually an individual's primary care provider, must refer the person for mental health services. These providers often do not have extensive experience with domestic violence and may be reluctant to make referrals for mental health services presumably because they do not perceive the benefits of these services in domestic violence cases. In addition, there are often financial disincentives for primary care providers in managed care plans to refer to speciality care, which may further limit access for mental health services. The shelters have developed their own mental health service components and provide counseling services. However, women who need services beyond what the shelter can provide experience a long wait. Public mental health services remain part of the domestic violence network; one community mental health agency that runs a program specifically for victims of physical or sexual abuse is a member of the Consortium.

Recently, the FUND has shifted its focus to mobilizing community rather than institutional responses to domestic violence, as reflected by some of their current efforts. For example, one project is training ten monolingual Spanish-speaking women about domestic violence issues and the services available at the Mission Police Station. The goal of this project is to "get the word out" about these issues and services to the Hispanic community. The FUND has another project within the Filipino community which seeks to reframe cultural norms and develop culturally- appropriate messages that mobilize members of the Filipino community to take action against domestic violence.