Ontario Woman Abuse Screening Project
The Ontario Woman Abuse Screening Project provincial initiative initially engaged four regions throughout Ontario and grew to include 14 regions. More than 160 agencies and programs in the mental health, addiction, woman abuse, and sexual assault sectors, as well as women with lived experience, collaborated to provide trauma-informed services and to implement screening for woman abuse, sexual assault and trauma in mental health and addiction agencies.
As the main outcomes of the Ontario Woman Abuse Screening Project, thousands of women have been screened and will be screened yearly, and have received/will receive woman abuse/trauma-informed services when accessing mental health/addiction agencies involved in our initiative. The project resulted in transformative systemic changes and supported the development of coordinated and integrated service delivery for abused women with concurrent mental health and addiction issues.
Service providers in the mental health and addiction sectors were trained to provide woman abuse/sexual assault/trauma-informed services. In the woman abuse and sexual assault sectors, staff were cross-trained to provide mental health-informed and addictions-informed services to abused women dealing with mental health and/or addiction issues. By making ‘every door the right door,’ regardless of the first door or sector women access, abused women who might otherwise not access woman abuse/sexual assault or mental health/addiction supports are identified and referred to appropriate services that understand the interrelationship of woman abuse, sexual assault, trauma, mental health, and substance use.
Regions which participated in the project include; London-Middlesex; Peel; Thunder Bay; Grey-Bruce; Sudbury-Manitoulin; Chatham-Kent; Northwestern Ontario; Hamilton; North Bay; Ottawa; Muskoka-Parry Sound; Niagara; Kapuskasing-Cochrane North; and Timiskaming. Although the funding for the project ended in 2013 and numerous regions have implemented screening and trauma-informed services, other regions are still in the process of working towards implementing screening, training and trauma-informed services.
The Ontario Woman Abuse Screening Project was a project of the Women’s Mental Health and Addictions Action Research Coalition and funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The London Abused Women’s Centre was the lead agency responsible for the Ontario Woman Abuse Screening Project.
Outcomes of the Ontario Woman Abuse Screening Project:
- Improved support for abused women with concurrent mental health and/or addiction issues whether accessing shelters, counselling services, mental health or addiction services;
- Earlier identification of woman abuse/sexual assault and trauma resulting in enhanced health and well-being of women accessing mental health, addiction, woman abuse and sexual assault services;
- Increased inter-sectoral and inter-regional community collaboration to improve services for abused women with complex, concurrent mental health and/or addiction issues;
- Development of new screening tools to identify woman abuse/sexual assault/trauma;
- Implementation of screening for woman abuse/sexual assault/trauma by addiction and mental health agencies; Every year, thousands of women are screened for woman abuse/sexual assault and trauma when accessing mental health and addiction agencies in a growing number of regions in Ontario;
- Increased capacity (through training) for service providers at mental health and addiction agencies to provide woman abuse/sexual assault/trauma-informed services and to screen for abuse/trauma;
- Increase in number of women at mental health and addiction agencies disclosing abuse/trauma and being provided with safety planning, referrals and trauma-informed services;
- Increased capacity of mental health and addiction workers to safety plan and appropriately refer abused women;
- Increase in screening for mental health and addiction issues in Violence Against Women organizations;
- Changes in ways services are provided for women with addiction and/or mental health issues within woman abuse shelters/counselling services (collaborating with mental health services to provide support within shelters, hiring staff to specialize in providing mental health or addiction services within shelters, staff development to enhance staff capacity to support women dealing with mental health and/or addiction issues, and new practices/policies i.e., harm reduction in shelters);
- Increased capacity of woman abuse service providers to make appropriate referrals for women with mental health and /or addictions issues; and,
- Enhanced collaboration across sectors and regions to provide improved abuse/trauma-informed services.