ANNAPOLIS, Md. (January 2, 2013) — Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) today announced that Maryland is one of six states selected by Futures Without Violence for a competitive grant to fund Project Connect, which focuses on helping health care providers play a role in helping to protect women from domestic violence.

Project Connect Maryland, which begins this month, will receive $375,000 over three years from the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  Project Connect Maryland will focus on the important role health care providers can play in keeping women safe and preventing the physical and emotional effects of violence against women.

"Project Connect Maryland will be a critical part of achieving one of our most important goals: ending domestic violence throughout our state," said Lt. Governor Brown. "Working together with our partners in Federal government, we can ensure that more of our health care providers have access to the training they need to assist victims of domestic violence, and to spot warning signs so they can help prevent violence before it starts. We've already made significant gains through our seven hospital-based domestic violence programs, and thanks to this new grant, we're looking forward to helping even more Marylanders live free from fear."

The Office of Surveillance and Quality Initiatives, Bureau of Maternal and Child Health at DHMH will integrate intimate partner violence assessment into all health care visits at selected reproductive health (family planning) sites in the Baltimore metro area, Prince George’s County and Lower Eastern Shore. Nationally acclaimed comprehensive curricula and educational materials developed by Futures Without Violence will be used to train providers in how to assess and help women who have been abused or who are in unhealthy relationships. Additionally, preventive women’s health services will be integrated into pilot domestic violence program sites, such as the House of Ruth Maryland. It is anticipated that these pilot programs will serve as models for expansion into other sites statewide. A Leadership Team comprised of Maryland experts from the fields of public health, women’s health, and domestic violence/sexual assault will guide the project.

“Health care providers have a unique role to play in the effort to stop domestic violence,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of DHMH. “This project will empower providers to recognize victims of domestic violence and get them the help they need.”

Project Connect Maryland will build upon ongoing efforts in Maryland to combat domestic violence, and to incorporate violence prevention efforts into the health care setting. Lt. Governor Brown recently announced Maryland’s seventh hospital-based domestic violence program designed to meet the goals of the Governor’s 2010 Executive Order, “The Maryland Domestic Violence Health Care Screening and Response Initiative.” The programs aim to identify victims at an early stage in the cycle of domestic violence and extend comprehensive services to prevent future physical and emotional injury.

Project Connect: A Coordinated Public Health Initiative to Prevent Violence Against Women is supported by OWH, and funded through the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2005. Futures Without Violence, in collaboration with OWH, will provide technical assistance and monitor the grantees selected for Project Connect.

Combating domestic violence is a personal cause for Lt. Governor Brown. In August 2008, his cousin Cathy was senselessly murdered by her estranged boyfriend. The grief of her loss spurred Lt. Governor Brown to redouble efforts to address domestic violence in our state. Building on his experience as a legislator and the perspective provided by this tragedy, Lt. Governor Brown has championed reforms to combat domestic violence.

Brown led successful efforts in 2009 to improve domestic violence laws by giving judges the authority to take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. During the 2010 Legislative Session, Brown worked with members of the General Assembly, domestic violence advocates and stakeholders to pass legislation allowing a victim of domestic abuse to terminate a residential lease with a copy of a final protective order. And the Lt. Governor is leading efforts to increase the availability of hospital-based domestic violence screening programs.

Since taking office, the O’Malley-Brown administration has worked to reduce violent crime in Maryland by 10 percent each year. Collaborating with state and local partners, they have reduced violent crime statewide to the lowest rates since 1975, and domestic violence deaths in Maryland have dropped by 11.5 percent since 2006.