A Partnership for Prevention and Intervention: Healthcare Provider Planned Parenthood & Intimate Partner Violence Advocacy Organization CCS Team up in San Diego County
Q & A with Planned Parenthood’s Education Outreach Manager, Chrissy Cmorik
In 2014, BlueShield of California provided funding to create a referral process for patients who are experiencing or have experienced intimate partner violence and/or sexual assault. Patients who wish to receive supportive services such as advocacy, counseling, shelter, and legal services are referred to CCS’ Community Outreach & Advocacy Coordinator/ Health Advocate, Cynthia Melchor. Cynthia’s focus is working specifically with Planned Parenthood patients and PPPSW healthcare providers to empower and educate about options for survivors of intimate partner violence.
BlueShield of California provides the funding through the Domestic Violence & Health Care Partnerships (DVHCP) grant. Originally, the grant was awarded to CCS and Planned Parenthood for two years; however, due to the success of the partnership, the grant was recently extended an additional year.
We sat down with PPPSW’s Education Outreach Manager, Chrissy Cmorik, to discuss how the partnership helps staff and survivors and why it’s an incredibly important program.
What is your relationship with Planned Parenthood and CCS?
I work to ensure the quality of PPPSW’s educational programs and train professionals – medical, social service, and teachers, mostly – about different topics, including sexuality and reproductive health. Also, I have been a volunteer SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) Advocate for CCS since 2003.
How does the DVHCP partnership work?
My role through Planned Parenthood is to provide cross-trainings to CCS’ Domestic Violence Victim Advocates on how to assess their clients’ sexuality and reproductive health, and ways in which staff can talk with clients about these sensitive topics. Marcella Maggio, the Prevention Coordinator for CCS, provides interactive cross-trainings for Planned Parenthood’s San Diego health centers, focused on recognizing if their patients are experiencing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), normalizing the initial conversation, and referring patients to Cynthia for support and resources.
Which Planned Parenthood locations does the Community Outreach & Advocacy Coordinator/Health Advocate currently serve, and how?
Cynthia serves all fourteen health centers within San Diego by assisting patients through an assortment of services including: empowering, client-centered problem-solving; education on choices and rights; and connections to a wide-range of resources within the patient’s community. In addition, Cynthia visits the health centers – located in Chula Vista, City Heights, College, Contact Center, El Cajon, Escondido, Euclid, First Avenue – Family Planning, First Avenue – Surgical, Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa, Mission Bay, Pacific Beach Express, and Vista – on a monthly basis in order to provide education, resource materials, and support to the health center staff.
Has the REVIVE partnership grown or changed from its original expectations? How?
Yes, tremendously. As with most collaborative projects, the partnership between CCS and Planned Parenthood faced a great deal of staff transitions within the first year. This could have affected the program immensely, however this shift in staff gave the partnership an opportunity to regroup, clarify roles and objectives, and appreciate how invested everyone was in the success of the program. One of the key factors that has made this partnership successful is the positive and helpful communication found in everyone involved. In order to make the cross-training possible, Marcella needed to schedule workshops at all fourteen health centers, with different managers, and in several cases, during conflicting times. But as the main contact for Planned Parenthood, I assisted in helping Marcella get into the health centers, and acted as a support person/liaison for CCS. I realize the importance of education, and yet understand the hectic schedules of the health centers.
Recent conferences that CCS and Planned Parenthood have participated in together?
Earlier this month, we attended and presented at The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence’s “Shifting the Lens” statewide conference. Alejandra Ceja-Aguilar, Director of Prevention & Education for CCS, Cynthia, Marcella, and myself showcased our partnership, highlighting how our longstanding relationship strengthened the work. We highlighted Cynthia’s role as a Health Advocate for the fourteen health centers, and how our culturally humble trainings and advocacy are a key part of the work.
How is the REVIVE partnership helping staff and survivors?
This partnership has been extremely rewarding because our agencies are committed to ending relationship violence by engaging health center staff to recognize in the early detection of domestic violence, thus creating a significant impact on people’s physical and mental health. In talking to different health centers and reviewing patient surveys, the response has been really positive. I’ve read quotes like, “The provider gave me info and resources; I’m glad they talked about this; I feel comfortable sharing the information with others.” Maybe the patients won’t need or ever seek Cynthia’s services, but they know it’s available. Which is something beyond us and really helping people.
Why is the REVIVE partnership important? Why is it a natural fit?
Planned Parenthood’s patients and CCS’ clients are often the same people. Therefore, how can we expect them to make decisions regarding their health and safety if they don’t understand their rights and resources? Luckily, we share mutual trust and respect for each other’s organizations, and personally as people. We believe in what we’re doing. It’s not about us, it’s about the work. As long as the people are getting the services, everyone has a buy-in.
What has your overall experience been? How do you feel about being involved?
I love it. I always wanted CCS and Planned Parenthood to merge services, especially since both agencies are near and dear to my heart. Besides, these are causes I feel so passionate about that it’s a joy to do. I saw the bigger picture. This can help them. This can change the way people live.
That’s really great! Our staff at CCS truly value the partnership and the ways in which we are better able to reach survivors. Can you tell me more about your involvement with CCS outside of your role at PPPSW?
I have a family member who introduced me to CCS and the cause. I decided to go through CCS’ Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) and learned about issues like rape culture. I couldn’t believe how society makes survivors of sexual assault feel, and wanted to be part of the solution. My mother raised me to believe, “The most important thing you can do, is serve others.”
Thirteen years is quite the commitment! Can you tell me about your experience?
I was so nervous on my first call that I got lost, but when I walked in, all the nerves went away. I was there, to be there, for the person. That feeling took over. Sometimes they cry and we hold hands, every person has different needs.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in becoming a SART Advocate?
Go in without an agenda – let the survivor lead you where they need it to go. Share CCS’ services by integrating them throughout the conversation so that the information is less overwhelming for the survivor.
How does it feel to be a SART Advocate?
I don’t love that I have to do it, but I love being there for someone. To take the ease off their health concerns or distract them from the nurse and the procedure, to empower them to make decisions for themselves. For me, it doesn’t matter what they were doing, what they were wearing, or where they were – they are not at fault.
In addition to being a SART Advocate, you also volunteer as a presenter for CCS’ quarterly Crisis Intervention Trainings. What can you tell me about that?
Mainly, I talk about Planned Parenthood’s preventive care services, including reproductive and sexual health. However, I will often answer questions regarding SART.
Thank you so much for all you do for survivors of intimate partner violence and your work in education and prevention. Is there anything you want people to know on how people can help serve and support the mission of Planned Parenthood?
Be active within the community, especially in regard to the candidacy. I encourage people to educate themselves regarding which candidates are for or against Planned Parenthood. Votes matter. Also, please attend events, volunteer at events, or subscribe to Planned Parenthood’s newsletter. We also have a Volunteer Night for those who want to drop-in or have long-term opportunities, including being on the phone bank with a script to engage others within different communities. And lastly, I want to mention our Promotores de Salud (Promotors of Health) program – a group of Spanish-speaking educators that reach our Latino communities throughout the County, providing medically-accurate and culturally-appropriate information and critical resources about the following topics: breast health, birth control, reproductive anatomy, preventative health care, and HIV/STIs.
By CCS Staff Marcella Maggio, Prevention & Education Coordinator, & Lindsay Riedel, Administrative Services Manager