Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente, a health maintenance organization, is bringing the often-hidden problem of domestic violence out of the shadows through a unique program for patients and medical staffers, reports Women’s eNews. The program takes domestic violence screening beyond the emergency room and connects those experiencing violence in the home with a network of resources quickly, both within health care and in the community. Kaiser Permanente Northern California launched the pilot program in 1998. Since it rolled out to all 35 medical centers in the region by 2000, findings of domestic violence have increased three-fold among patients. Plans are underway to expand the program across the country.
Thirty-seven percent of women who sought treatment in emergency rooms for violence-related injuries in 1994 were injured by a current or former spouse or romantic companion, according to the Family Violence Prevention Fund. The U.S. health care system spends $4.1 billion on direct medical and mental health services for patients experiencing domestic violence, according to a 2000 study in the Archives of Family Medicine.