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In This Issue:
A woman in her 60s relied on her BWH primary care physician and practice team for excellent care and advice for a complicated health issue. During a visit, her care team realized she needed help to deal with another issue—domestic violence—and the team sprang into action.
Her primary care physician and the practice social worker rallied to support her and called in Passageway, and this woman soon gained the full spectrum of support BWH offers its patients who are victims of domestic violence. After 39 years in an abusive marriage, she realized she was not alone and that she could make changes, thanks to the help of Passageway.
She now lives in the safety of her own apartment, and this month she decorated a T-shirt to tell her story and thank BWH as part of Project Clothesline. Topped with “I was married for 39 years,” her T-shirt is one of 34 decorated by women who received help from Passageway staff and many other care providers at BWH. Project Clothesline remains in the lobby at 75 Francis St. until Monday as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“After recognizing the signs of abuse, this primary care team launched a comprehensive response, and we were able to accomplish so much in just one day,” Passageway Director Tina Nappi, MSW, LICSW, said.
In the past year, Passageway has helped approximately 750 victims of domestic abuse, including 29 men and many BWH staff. Passageway receives referrals from care teams in primary care practices, the Emergency Department, Day Surgery, Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation, GI Clinics, Trauma, Obstetrics, Gynecology, Oncology and Med/Surg care providers. Security often makes referrals to Passageway, as do many BWH staff for their family members, friends and co-workers.
BWH has five Passageway advocates and two interns who are studying for their master’s in social work. With 24-hour coverage, this dedicated team of advocates provides initial crisis response, intake and ongoing counseling and support around finding safe housing options. Also, Passageway helps victims navigate their way through schools, hospitals and courts.
Passageway provides access to free or low-cost legal services for abuse victims through a unique relationship with Harvard Law School (HLS). The Passageway Health Law Collaboration at HLS’s Legal Services Center of Jamaica Plain has a full-time lawyer dedicated to Passageway thanks to a two-year Skadden fellowship funded by a New York law firm.
This access to legal services played a major role in the success story behind the “Beautiful Beginnings” T-shirt at the BWH Clothesline Project. A victim committed to making a change after her child witnessed abuse, and the Skadden fellow and a Passageway advocate helped her secure a restraining order that may have saved her life.
The dedicated staff of Passageway and their innovative solutions to the difficult problems created by domestic violence never cease to amaze BWH President Gary Gottlieb. “This team of advocates and all they do amaze and inspire me, and the stories behind each of the T-shirts at the Clothesline Project are testament to their commitment,” Gottlieb said.
BWH and Passageway are committed to attacking domestic violence on many levels, Gottlieb said. “Our advocates respond to individual crises with compassion while making sure BWH as an institution remains committed to effecting social change,” he said.
JudyAnn Bigby, MD, director of Community Health Programs, praised Nappi and the Passageway staff for their commitment and efforts beyond working with domestic violence victims. “The staff of Passageway go above and beyond with their efforts to educate BWH care givers about recognizing signs of abusive relationships and increasing awareness of domestic violence in the community,” she said.
The Clothesline Project did just that this week.