DVMHPI began in 1999 as an innovative project designed to address the unmet mental health needs of domestic violence survivors and their children in Chicago and to transform the systems that survivors turn to for safety and support. After six years of working at the state and local level in Illinois, DVMHPI opened the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health to expand its activities nationwide. Our overarching goal is to ensure that all survivors of domestic violence and their children who are experiencing abuse-related trauma and/or living with mental illness can access the mental health, advocacy, and other services that they may need to enhance their safety and well-being.
We feel that these are attainable goals that can be reached in three ways. First, we provide opportunities for dialogue and facilitate collaboration among advocates, mental health professionals, disability rights organizations and community-based service providers, as well as state domestic violence coalitions, state agencies, and other policy organizations. Second, we share information on program models and provide training and technical assistance to service providers and policymakers. Third, we work to improve policy that affects women, particularly as it relates to trauma, domestic violence and mental health, by producing policy reports and issuing recommendations on emerging issues for domestic violence programs and mental health systems.
Our mission is preventive in several ways. Our work on behalf of children who witness violence seeks to interrupt the cycle of violence by supporting both children and their mothers. We have developed curricula and conduct trainings to help mental health and DV advocacy systems develop trauma-informed, parent-child services for children exposed to DV and other interpersonal violence. Our work on behalf of survivors is also preventive because when systems are sensitive to the impact of trauma on survivors of violence and are better able to respond to survivors’ needs they are more likely to be able to help women achieve lasting safety. Thirdly, our work in developing an understanding of intersection of the social, political, economic, cultural and psychological underpinnings of abuse and violence will hopefully stimulate strategies to transform these conditions.