Members of Alberta Health Services (AHS) Central Zone and The Outreach Centre talk about the Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART), a new program at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre on Nov. 1, 2017. Officials included were Allan Sinclair, executive director in Red Deer with AHS Central Zone; Ronnie Biletsky, co-ordinator of the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Response Team with AHS; and Barb Barber, executive director of The Outreach Centre. The DART program has now expanded to 23 additional Alberta communities. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Members of Alberta Health Services (AHS) Central Zone and The Outreach Centre talk about the Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART), a new program at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre on Nov. 1, 2017. Officials included were Allan Sinclair, executive director in Red Deer with AHS Central Zone; Ronnie Biletsky, co-ordinator of the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Response Team with AHS; and Barb Barber, executive director of The Outreach Centre. The DART program has now expanded to 23 additional Alberta communities. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Domestic Abuse Response Team available in 23 more Alberta communities

Team originally launched at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre

More Albertans now have around-the-clock access to free, specialized services to support them if they are experiencing domestic violence.

The Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART), originally launched at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre in 2017, has expanded over the past year to serve 23 additional communities: Banff, Daysland, Lacombe, Two Hills, Black Diamond, Drayton Valley, Okotoks, Valleyview, Bonnyville, Fort McMurray, Ponoka, Viking, Camrose, Fox Creek, Rocky Mountain House, Vulcan, Canmore, Grande Prairie, St. Paul, Wetaskiwin, Claresholm, High River and Stettler.

Funding for the DART expansion comes from a $2.6-million grant from province designed to expand family violence services for rural, remote and Indigenous communities.

“Abuse in the home can take many forms, all of them damaging to the individual. The Government of Alberta wants to make sure that those impacted by domestic violence can easily access the appropriate mix of supports and services right in their community,” said Minister of Health Jason Copping in a statement.

Albertans can request DART services at Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Covenant Health emergency departments, urgent care centres and select maternity wards in any of these communities.

Healthcare providers are also proactively screening patients for domestic violence and, on identification of these concerns, offering DART services regardless of the patient’s primary medical or mental health needs.

“We know domestic violence impacts a person’s health and it isn’t always physical. Domestic violence can take many forms, including mental, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse,” said Dr. Nicholas Mitchell, provincial medical director of addiction and mental health.

“Through the Domestic Abuse Response Team, we are able to help people and connect them to services immediately.”

DART can help individuals access specialized risk assessment, crisis intervention, emotional support, education, safety planning, safe accommodations, information about local resources, and connection to follow-up services.

As part of this grant, AHS plans to expand DART to additional communities in the coming months.

“By offering immediate support to our patients and educating our staff on domestic violence, we hope to connect people experiencing domestic violence with the help they need,” Mitchell said.

“As the pandemic forced Albertans to isolate, it may also have created an increased risk of domestic violence. And as we start to regain some forms of normalcy, it doesn’t mean life will just go back to normal for many. Now, more than ever, we need to make sure people are aware of supports in place, where to get help and how to help others.”

November is Family Violence Prevention Month. For help check for local by calling Health Link at 811.

Additional resources include:

• The Family Violence Info Line (310-1818) available toll-free to Albertans 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

• The Family Violence Info Line chat available daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (English only).

• Emergency shelters throughout the province which provide safe locations to stay for people fleeing violent or abusive situations.

• Other supports are available through Alberta Government supports.

domestic violence