According to a city press release,
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and City of Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey today announced the creation of an Intimate Partner Violence Reform Leadership Team. The leadership team is being created to provide leadership and strategic direction in coordinating policy and system level work across agencies to improve a complex and fragmented system for intimate partner violence victims. The team will be co-chaired by The Honorable Kim Berkeley Clark, President Judge of the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania, and Erin Dalton, Director of the Department of Human Services (DHS). Fitzgerald and Gainey are serving as honorary co-chairs and conveners.
“I’ve said this often, but it’s no secret that our community does the best when we work together and tackling the issue of, and improving response to, intimate partner violence is no exception,” said Fitzgerald. “We are grateful to the many stakeholders coming together to give of their time and effort and are committed to making real changes to our system to connect everyone and improve outcomes for all of those who interact with our many systems because of that violence.”
Along with Fitzgerald, Gainey, Clark and Dalton, the leadership team includes Dr. Debra Bogen (Allegheny County Health Department), Hillary Brown (Nina Baldwin Fisher Foundation), Carlos Carter (Urban League), Cindy Chung (US Attorney for the Western District), Chris Connors (Fifth Judicial District of PA), Matt Dugan (Allegheny County Public Defender’s Office), Dr. Kathi Elliott (Gwen’s Girls), Chief Bruce Fromlak of West View Borough (Allegheny County Chiefs of Police Association), Michelle Gibb (Alle-Kiski Area Hope Center), Tom McCaffrey (Fifth Judicial District of PA), Dr. Elizabeth Miller (UPMC), Nicole Molinaro (Women’s Center and Shelter), Angela Reynolds (YWCA), Deputy Chief Thomas Stangrecki (Pittsburgh Bureau of Police), Kristy Trautmann (FISA Foundation) and District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala, Jr.
“Thank you to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh and the FISA Foundation for their work and support of this new effort to address Intimate Partner Violence,” said Gainey. “This leadership team and their work to create real reforms and politics on this critical public health issue are key to building a region where everyone can feel safe.”
The county’s standing intimate partner violence (IPV) task force meets annually and includes tactical working groups. Stakeholders from all systems engaged in a comprehensive participatory assessment process by The Urban Institute to document community responses to IPV and identify opportunities to improve. The project was funded by FISA Foundation and Hillman Family Foundations and resulted in a public report: Advancing a Coordinated Response to Intimate Partner Violence: A Systemwide Assessment from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The top priority was a commitment from top leadership to help mobilize agencies, enable experts and turn recommendations into policies and practice. The IPV Reform Leadership Team fulfills that goal.
“FISA Foundation supported the two-year planning and assessment project led by The Urban Institute that applauded the strong leadership already in place in the courts, human services, law enforcement and victim services, and established consensus on areas for improvement,” said Kristy Trautmann, Executive Director of the FISA Foundation. “We’re delighted that the County Executive, Mayor, President Judge, Department of Human Services, and many other leaders have put a stake in the group to support continuing reform to help victims of domestic violence to be safer. Coordinated leadership is the only way to tackle complex problems and the launch of this task force is a big step forward in addressing domestic violence in Allegheny County.”
According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, one in three women, and one in four men, will be victims of physical violence by an intimate partner. In Allegheny County, there are more than 80 9-1-1 calls for domestic violence every day. Though overall 9-1-1 calls decreased during COVID, calls for domestic violence increased. From 2016 to 2021, four (4) percent of female victims of homicide were killed in their own homes. More than 14,000 people reach out to a victim services organization for support related to IPV each year.
“Elevating the coordination of the work with survivors of intimate partner violence will, quite simply, save lives,” said Nicole Molinaro, President/CEO of Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. “We are honored that the county, city, courts and human service leadership have partnered with the domestic violence programs in Allegheny County and the FISA Foundation to address domestic violence as a public health issue that affects our entire community.”
Survivors, perpetrators of violence and child witnesses are served in large numbers in our systems. In 2018, 16 percent of all cases filed in Pittsburgh Municipal Court were for IPV. That same year, 37 percent of child welfare cases that were opened had IPV indicated. In 2017, 75 percent of perpetrators in child deaths had a history of IPV as an aggressor or survivor. The District Attorney’s Domestic Violence Unit resolves between 650-950 cases per year. There are 700-1,000 people served in domestic violence shelters every year. Roughly 50 percent of them are children.
“The IPV Reform Leadership Task Force is intended to provide visible and prominent leadership for reform efforts while also adding public accountability to making progress. The effort also invites public awareness and attention to the issues,” said Clark. “The involvement of cross-system stakeholders will help coordinate implementation of priorities.”
DHS has dedicated a high-level advisor to the work on IPV reform. Additionally, the department will focus on data infrastructure, expand Battering Intervention Programming, leverage state and federal grants, and provide any needed administrative support for the IPV Task Force.
“Issues of intimate partner violence impact all of our work at DHS,” said Dalton. “We are pleased to provide infrastructure to help tackle this critical problem.”
The IPV Reform Leadership Task Force had its first organizational meeting this morning which focused on basic orientation and a discussion about the key problems and issues that the group wants to address through this process. The group will reconvene in the near future for its first working meeting to discuss action steps and set priorities for the work groups. Thereafter, the group will meet annually.