Suspend in-person hospital advocacy services

July 2020 Update:

The Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence and the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force continue to re-evaluate our recommendation on suspending in-person hospital advocacy services.

As the pandemic continues to evolve, three things are clear:

First, the effects of COVID-19 on how we interact with people will be long-lasting. Without a vaccine, measures such as physical distancing, masks, and limiting interactions outside of your household continue to be essential to protect health and safety. At the same time, the pandemic has had incalculable effects on holistic well-being such as mental health, connectedness, and resiliency. The timeframe of a pandemic is wearying.

Second, the way the virus has spread so far has disproportionately impacted communities of color, Native communities, people with disabilities, and elders. Any conversations we have about moving towards resuming in-person services must center our collective commitment to ending oppression, including racism, ageism, and ableism.

Third, with this in mind, each community’s situation is far too specific to capture in a broad recommendation. We cannot recommend resuming in-person advocacy services while the community spread of COVID-19 continues to rise. At the same time, we recognize that each community must balance its own considerations. As before, we point you to our Recommendations for Considering Resuming In-Person Services to help guide that discussion:

One thing to be mindful of is how a county’s trajectory through the phases of reopening can rapidly shift, as seen in decisions to pause reopening in certain areas or add counties to a watch list following rapidly-spreading outbreaks. To move in and out of providing in-person advocacy services creates uncertainty for survivors and can disrupt community partnerships.

In addition, newer research suggests that the severity of a COVID-19 infection may be tied to the amount of virus that the individual was exposed to. While OHA loosened restrictions on hospital visitors last month, we urge agencies to keep this research in mind, given the unusually close and extended contact that typically characterizes in-person advocacy.

We recommend checking in regularly with the following resources to stay updated on how the pandemic is affecting your community and the state:

Oregon’s COVID-19 Testing and Outcomes by County:!/vizhome/OregonCOVID-19TestingandOutcomesbyCounty/OregonsCOVID-19TestingandOutcomesbyCounty?:display_count=y&:toolbar=n&:origin=viz_share_link&:showShareOptions=false

Oregon’s COVID-19 Disease Burden, especially County Indicators:!/vizhome/OregonCOVID-19PublicHealthIndicators/COVID-19Burden

Projected COVID-19 Epidemic Trends in Oregon can be found under Additional Data and Projections:

Visitation Guidance can be found under Healthcare Providers and Clinical Laboratories:

Finally, we would like to emphasize that now is the time to check in on and strengthen your partnerships. It may be particularly challenging in these circumstances to foster those connections, but it is more crucial than ever. Ensuring that community partners remain connected is the surest way to ensure that survivors feel connected when they seek out our services.

As always, the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence and the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force remain available to you for assistance and support.

5/28/2020 Update: 

The Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence and the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force promised to re-evaluate our recommendation on suspending in-person hospital advocacy services and share any changes by May. 

Our recommendation has not changed (see below for our original statement) and will stay the course until we hear more from Governor Brown. Based on OHA’s projections, we expect visitor restrictions at the hospital to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

OCADSV and SATF will, however, release additional resources to support you in thinking about how to resume in-person hospital advocacy services. These resources will be released soon via our listservs and website.

We will continue to update you on our recommendations once we have more information and as the pandemic evolves.


4/6/2020 Update: We still recommend the following action.

During this extraordinary time, the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence (OCADSV) and the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force (SATF) staff and Board of Directors want to assure survivors that advocacy services are operating and safe for them to access.

Many advocacy and allied programs have reached out to us for support and guidance on how to continue providing hospital response services for survivors accessing a medical-forensic exam (SAFE Kit) during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

OCADSV and SATF are unified in our recommendation that advocacy programs suspend in-person hospital advocacy services – effective immediately.

We acknowledge that during this uncertain time that we are all learning together, and that it will take all of us working together to ensure care for survivors in Oregon. One thing we know for certain – advocates will still be able to provide exceptional services for survivors remotely.

We will re-evaluate this position in the coming weeks, but for now we encourage everyone to play their role to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

We encourage our partners to engage in the coordination of services throughout their community. Some information to consider includes:
• We encourage SARTs to meet remotely and make a plan for your modified community coordinated response that centers survivors and maintains access to advocacy services.
• Look for tools provided by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), Resource Sharing Project (RSP), and updates from OCADSV and SATF as the current pandemic evolves.
• Coordinate how advocates might be available to the survivor by phone for safety planning and online support.
• Ensure that advocacy is provided in a private and safe location that ensures confidentiality and strict privacy.
• Stay informed about the local changes to hospitals, courts, DHS, or supervised visitation services and determine what those changes mean for advocates responding to survivors.
• We encourage all advocacy programs to take guidance directly from local health officials on the proper cleaning of shelters and other shared service locations, as well as safety and physical distancing protocols.
• Plan for and consider the needs of those historically marginalized in your communities, consider that their access to services may be particularly limited.

We are a deeply committed and resilient system. We encourage all of us to be creative and flexible so that access to domestic and sexual violence services in Oregon remains accessible to all survivors.

Vanessa Timmons, Executive Director (OCADSV)
Michele Roland-Schwartz, Executive Director (SATF)

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