March 27, 2024

Experts and resources to address domestic violence coming to Emergency Department in Rockford

UW Health working with Mayor’s Office of Domestic and Community Violence Prevention

ROCKFORD, Ill. – Thanks to Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity grant funding, there will be additional resources for victims of strangulation or domestic abuse in the Emergency Department at UW Health in northern Illinois.

Domestic violence accounts for nearly 50% of violent crime in Rockford, according to Jennifer Cacciapaglia, executive director, Mayor’s Office of Domestic and Community Violence Prevention.

“This is an urgent issue for our community, one that requires significant attention and resources,” she said.

The grant will enable UW Health to hire two additional staff in the coming months who will work primarily in the Emergency Department offering support and resources to patients who report being victims or are suspected victims of domestic abuse or strangulation. It will also support educational and training opportunities for staff, awareness campaigns in the community and additional resources for patients.

Identifying victims of strangulation in domestic abuse situations is particularly urgent, Cacciapaglia said. More than 50% of survivors seeking services at the Family Peace Center, a local service center that provides services to victims of inter-personal violence, have been strangled, and experiencing strangulation increases a survivor’s risk of homicide by 700%, according to Cacciapaglia.

“The sooner we identify those who have experienced domestic violence, the sooner we can help,” she said. “Thanks to this new partnership, we will have more experts on-site to focus on providing that support and more resources to offer community members who need it.”

UW Health is ideally positioned to support this work for the Rockford community, according to Kim Wolgast, registered nurse and operational supervisor, Emergency Department, UW Health in northern Illinois.

“We’re often at the front lines of the worst days in our patients’ lives,” she said. “With that unique perspective, we want to do everything we can to prevent a repeat of those traumatic experiences and enable healthier futures for our patients.”

In addition to staff and resources, the grant supports a task force that began meeting this month and includes UW Health, the Mayor’s Office of Domestic and Community Violence Prevention and other stakeholders to work on prevention education and awareness campaigns for the community.

The funding for local domestic violence reduction efforts was secured with support from Illinois State Sen. Steve Stadelman.

“I'm pleased to be able to support this latest effort by the City of Rockford, not only to better assist survivors of domestic violence but also to intervene against repeat violence,” he said. “From direct support for police to confront crime on the street to innovative approaches like this, I'll continue to work to deliver resources to make our community safer and improve the lives of families in distress.”

This partnership builds on a long tradition of supporting the community in Rockford and northern Illinois, according to Travis Andersen, CEO, UW Health in northern Illinois.

“We’re here to care for everyone who needs us,” he said. “The identified need is clear, and with these additional resources, we can be an important part of a collaborative solution to meet this need. We are ready to lead this much-needed work to make our community healthier and safer.”