In Spring 2019, our community identified an increase in domestic violence-related murders. Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales and Councilman Manny Pelaez asked the Department of Human Services (DHS) and Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health) for a structured assessment of domestic violence-related services. The evaluation included available services, systems of data collection and analysis, and community responses to family violence, including by law enforcement, social services, courts, and educators. The assessment also pinpointed gaps in service, and potential system improvements in incident reporting and follow up.
WHAT IS A PUBLIC HEALTH APPROACH TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PREVENTION?
Public health is fundamentally a science of prevention, addressing upstream factors to prevent downstream consequences. In practice, this means that upstream public health solutions like supporting positive parenting, for downstream problems like domestic violence-related homicide, take many years to change outcomes. Survivors of one form of violence are more likely to be victims of other forms of violence. Youth who have been physically abused by an intimate partner are more likely to have experienced abuse as a child1. Children who experience physical abuse or neglect are at greater risk for committing violence against peers2, teen dating violence, and committing child abuse3, intimate partner violence, and sexual violence later in life. A public health approach is not a quick fix, but slow, deep change to systems and whole communities. It requires sustained, multi-sector commitment and transparent evaluation of what is working and what isn’t to make change rooted in evidence.
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Reports & Presentations
Why Stand Up?
San Antonio Metropolitan Health District’s Program to Curb Gun Violence
People are attracted to San Antonio because it has a reputation as a city that is on the rise, a forward thinking city, and a safe city. Out of 224 Texas cities, the Alamo City was ranked the 215th safest city based on the 2018 study by the National Council for Home Safety and Security. In reality, the city ranked sixth nationally in 2016 in homicides and violent crimes of the nation’s largest cities with a per capita homicide rate of 10.8 per 100,000 population.
To mitigate increasing community violence, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District made the decision in 2015 to implement the evidence-based model of treating violence as a disease, as theorized by Dr. Gary Slutkin.
The model focuses specifically on retaliatory crime, in that one act of violence perpetuates another creating a cycle of violence. This philosophy is carried out on a local city level by the Stand Up SA Program. The model aims to reduce the occurrence of violence through three key strategic components:
Identifying and changing the mindset of potential perpetrators; and,
Changing community norms regarding violence.
Within the first quarter of existence, the numbers of murders in the designated target areas decreased dramatically by 85% and continued to remain low for the rest of the year. In May 2017, Stand Up launched a 90-day campaign to ‘Silence the Violence’ in an attempt to reduce gang violence through the summer months. Several Stand Up events were scheduled throughout the period to celebrate the reduced violence with residents. While violence was not totally erased, each of the target communities experienced a reduction from the last year.
Stand Up SA deploys effective staff members in target communities to identify conflicts and enlist the individuals to interrupt the cycle of violence. We draw on the credibility that these embedded staff members of Stand Up SA have acquired through their personal and past experiences with the criminal justice system, and their community connections, using them as a catalyst to evoke behavioral changes and limiting beliefs of misconceived norms. Stand Up SA engages with youth and young adults between the ages of 5-24 years of age at an elevated risk of witnessing violence, perpetrating violence, or having violence committed against them. Upon engaging and establishing a meaningful connection with these at-risk participants, our staff works closely with each participant to convince them to reject the use of violence. Education on the cost and consequences of violence is reinforced by teaching alternative responses to potentially violent situations and by connecting participants with relevant resources.
In 2018, Stand Up SA modified the use of Dr. Slutkin’s model to specifically address the violence issues unique to San Antonio. While the prevention of violence remains the top priority, Stand Up SA is also focused on identifying individuals who are at an elevated risk of recidivism and attempting to ‘break the cycle’ of returning to incarceration.
Stand Up SA is reestablishing relationships with the city’s two dedicated Level 1 trauma hospitals, University Hospital and Brooke Army Medical Center. These partnerships will allow the hospitals to address the short-term, crisis-driven needs, while allowing Stand Up SA to gather critical information and intervene on-site to reduce the chances of violence due to retaliation. We also have the opportunity to address long-standing needs and provide access to resources for long-term solutions that will make a better quality of life possible by partnering with Chrysalis Ministries which specializes in providing social service programs for individuals and families so they may overcome the consequences of incarceration.
Current Stand Up SA staffing includes a total of 12 outreach workers, who actively engage in street-level conflict resolution. All staff members are trained in specialized intervention strategies with the aim of de-escalating situations and prevent further violence from occurring. Efforts also focus on enrolling high-risk youth into Stand Up SA’s Case Management Program, which connects those at-risk individuals with relevant and effective resources, services, and support groups within the community. Each outreach worker on staff maintains a caseload of 4-15 elevated risk participants for long-term case management.
Although Stand Up SA has been instrumental in aiding in a variety of other related issues such as kidnapping, rape, and drug incidents, our main focus and top priority will always be our mission to reduce gun violence and convince communities to STAND UP against violence.
Stand Up S.A. will focus on
- interrupting transmission
- changing behaviors and
- community norms
Stand Up SA works to prevent gun violence with conversation (KSAT)
“Credible messengers” are hired and trained to develop relationships and trust within the community in order to “interrupt” violence.
Collaborative Commission on Domestic Violence
What is the Collaborative Commission on Domestic Violence?
The Commission on Collaborative Strategies to Prevent, Combat, and Respond to Domestic Violence is a joint City/County commission that will be implementing portions of the domestic violence comprehensive plan selected by Commission Chairs over the next three years.
A Special Order signed and entered on July 30, 2019, by Local Administrative District Court Judge Peter Sakai created the first-of-its-kind Commission on Collaborative Strategies to Prevent, Combat, and Respond to Domestic Violence. Co-Chaired by Assistant City Manager Dr. Colleen Bridger and 150th District Court Judge Monique Diaz, the Commission held its first meeting on Friday, August 16, 2019, and is the first in Bexar County to formally convene local leaders in government, the judiciary, law enforcement, prosecution, non-profits, and health care agencies with one shared vision: reduce domestic violence in Bexar County.
- Prosecution – District Attorney Joe D. Gonzales, Chair
- Judicial – Judge Mary Lou Alvarez and Judge Ron Rangel, Co-Chairs
- Healthcare – George Hernandez (UHS) and Jelynne Burley (Center for Healthcare Services), Co-Chairs
- Law Enforcement – Chief William McManus and Sherriff Javier Salazar, Co-Chairs
- Non-Profits – Patricia Castillo (Peace Initiative), Marta Palaez (Family Violence Prevention Services), and Julia Rodriguez (Texas Rio Grande Legal Aide), Co-Chairs
- Policy – Jeff Coyle (City of San Antonio) Chair
Each committee is responsible for developing a one-year work plan (PDF) to address programs and processes that can be improved to prevent domestic violence and better serve survivors.
The CCDV wants to hear from you!
The CCDV continues to seek community input and guidance to respond to the needs of survivors and their families. In addition to the work each committee has committed to completing that will engage with community stakeholders including survivors, the CCDV will be seeking ongoing community feedback and guidance.
Any community member may nominate an individual for one of the CCDV committees. Additionally, community members can provide feedback on the Commission, strategies, or share ideas through an additional form. Submissions can be anonymous!
Monthly Facebook Live Updates
Lead by a different committee each month, committee chairs and/or guests will provide a brief update on Committee status and pose a community question for feedback over the month.
- November/May - Full Commission
- December/June - Judiciary
- January/July - Healthcare
- February/August - Non-Profit
- March/September - Law Enforcement
- April/October - Prosecution
Quarterly Community Meetings
The first community meeting will be hosted Monday November 18th, 6:00 p.m. at the Bazan Library.
Additional quarterly community update meetings will be hosted in February, May, and August 2020.