Lt. Governor Brown Announces New Hospital-Based Domestic Violence Program at Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown

Hagerstown Initiative is Maryland's Sixth Hospital-Based Domestic Violence Screening Program


HAGERSTOWN, Md. (January 23, 2012) Today, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown joined health care representatives, domestic violence advocates, community members and state and local officials to announce the launch of a new Hospital-Based Domestic Violence Program at Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown, which will be funded in part by $50,000 in state grant money. The Hagerstown program is Maryland’s sixth hospital-based domestic violence program and the first in Western Maryland.

The program is Maryland’s sixth hospital-based domestic violence program designed to meet the goals of the Governor’s 2010 Executive Order, “The Maryland Domestic Violence Health Care Screening and Response Initiative,” which encourages expanded domestic violence services at health care facilities across the state through screening hospital patients, training health care staff and providing resources to victims of domestic abuse. Similar programs are currently in place in the Baltimore region at Anne Arundel Medical Center, Mercy Medical Center, Sinai Hospital and Northwest Hospital. Most recently, the Lt. Governor launched a fifth program at Prince George’s Hospital Center in October, 2010.

“Governor O’Malley and I are committed to ending domestic violence in Maryland.  Working together with partners like Meritus Medical Center, CASA and CareFirst, we are making progress by building a coordinated response to domestic violence in every part of our state,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “The hard work being done by the dedicated staff here at Meritus Medical Center is making a real difference in the lives of Western Maryland residents. By funding the hospital-based domestic violence program in this location, we will be able to better recognize and care for victims of domestic violence and prevent further incidences in Washington County and throughout the region.”

Meritus Health President and CEO Joseph P. Ross said, “We have the opportunity to help victims of domestic violence by implementing a comprehensive, hospital-based Domestic Violence Victim Services program here at Meritus Medical Center.  The program will include the standardized use of a domestic violence screening process, staff training and education, and the development of an inter-disciplinary team to create the process for crisis response, evaluation and safety planning.”

In response to the Executive Order, the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention and the Maryland Community Health Resources Commission made State monies available, while CareFirst BlueCross Blue Shield has committed private/non-profit funds to pilot domestic violence programs at Meritus Medical Center and Prince George’s Hospital Center. The Meritus Medical Center program’s total first year funding is $66,000, $50,000 of which is public funds and $16,000 of which comes from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. Its primary goals are to identify victims at an early stage in the cycle of domestic violence and extend comprehensive services to prevent future physical and emotional injury.

“The Meritus Medical Center program extends beyond medical care and addresses a number of factors that result from domestic violence. We support approaches to care that take into account the patient’s overall health and well-being,” said Chet Burrell, CareFirst President and CEO. “It’s an innovative program and one CareFirst is proud to support.”

Washington County has experienced an increased incidence of domestic violence with nine known fatalities since 2006. The 2011 Maryland State Health Improvement Plan reports the baseline rate of domestic violence related admissions to the Emergency Department as 67.8 for Washington County (per 100,000 residents). In 2010 there were 1,015 domestic violence cases filed in the Washington County judicial system.  The Hagerstown City Police responded to 1,542 domestic violence incidents in 2010, which resulted in 621 reports (40%) and 235 arrests (38%). In about 7% of these cases, victims were transported to the hospital for treatment. The Washington County Sheriff's Department reports a 12.5% increase in the number of domestic violence reports from 2010 to 2011.

“We are extremely pleased the project was funded. Many victims visit the ER with injuries not admitting abuse is present in their relationship,” said Vicki Sadehvandi, Executive Director, Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused, Inc. “With training, ER staff will have the ability to assess the situation, offer information and provide referral for the victim for services. The hospital will have staff throughout, trained to identify and assist victims to obtain services. This project will reach victims previously unserved.”

“This is a vitally important program because hospitals and the medical profession in general, are often the first line of protection for a battered woman,” said Kristen Mahoney, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. “As with all diseases, early detection and intervention can save lives.”

Meritus Medical Center is an acute care hospital located in Hagerstown, Maryland with 272 single-patient rooms, along with the most advanced technologies available. The hospital’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) Program encompasses crisis counseling, intervention and referral for all victims of sexual assault, abuse and domestic violence of all ages. Victims brought to Meritus Medical Center are medically screened by the emergency department staff. Specially trained forensic nurses are on call to assess and care for sexual assault/abuse victims. Victims benefit greatly from the comprehensive services and victim-centered care provided by the SAFE Program, including initial crisis intervention and social support, as well as a complete evidentiary exam, including medical evaluation, evidence collection, evidence preservation, education, screening for medication prophylaxis, and appropriate referrals.

Combating domestic violence is a personal cause for Lt. Governor Brown. In August 2008, his cousin Cathy was senselessly murdered by her estranged boyfriend. The grief of her loss spurred Lt. Governor Brown to redouble efforts to address domestic violence in our state. Building on his experience as a legislator and the perspective provided by this tragedy, Lt. Governor Brown has championed reforms to combat domestic violence.

Brown led successful efforts in 2009 to improve domestic violence laws by giving judges the authority to take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. During the 2010 Legislative Session, Brown worked with members of the General Assembly, domestic violence advocates and stakeholders to pass legislation allowing a victim of domestic abuse to terminate a residential lease with a copy of a final protective order.  And the Lt. Governor is leading efforts to increase the availability of hospital-based domestic violence screening programs.

Since taking office, the O’Malley-Brown administration has worked to reduce violent crime in Maryland by 10 percent each year and reduce violent crimes committed against women and children by 25 percent before 2012. Collaborating with state and local partners, they have reduced violent crime statewide to the lowest rates since 1975, and domestic violence deaths in Maryland have dropped by 41% over the past three years.


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