Ten Red Deer-area agencies are working together to improve services to those experiencing domestic violence and abuse.
The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters announced the agencies have signed an information sharing agreement as part of the Blueprint Project to create a co-ordinated and collaborative approach to support clients.
Frontline workers will be trained over the next few months.
The council said many fatality inquiries and death review committee recommendations have called for better information sharing to save lives, and the Blueprint Project is one way of getting there.
“Frontline workers need to be able to really work together to wrap services around the client. We’ve got to stop ‘pinballing’ people from one service to the next,” said Ian Wheeliker, CEO of Central Alberta Outreach Society, one of the agencies that have signed the agreement.
He said for the past few years governments have actually funded system navigators to work with clients so they can find the services they need.
“(Blueprint Project) is an opportunity to shift from a program-centric service delivery model to a client-centric service delivery model.”
A key component of Blueprint is the recognition that significant change is needed to address the fact that Indigenous, newcomer and refugee, and 2SLGBTQ+ populations experience systemic barriers while facing disproportionate rates of violence.
The information sharing agreement provides a way for agencies to collect and share a client’s personal information with each other — with the clients’ consent.
A new data collection app being tested as part of the project aids a common intake, assessment and support process. This is a shift from a system where a client would have to go from agency to agency, with agencies referring a client based on their own systems.
“Referral-based systems are not only repetitive and confusing, they often re-traumatize women who were seeking help. They were asked to tell their story over and over again to various agencies. The information sharing agreements, backed by the launch of the app and common assessment tools, supports a process that puts the survivor at the centre,” said Jan Reimer executive director with the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters.
“For years we have heard from community agencies that the biggest barrier to coordinated services supporting survivors is information sharing. The information sharing agreement clears our path and allows us to be fully centred on the client’s needs in a truly collaborative service model,” Wheeliker said.
Members of the Red Deer-area Blueprint Project include Urban Aboriginal Voices, Turning Point, Safe Harbour Society, Central Alberta Immigrant Women’s Association, Red Deer City RCMP, Central Alberta Outreach Society, Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre, Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre, Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, and Trans and Non-binary Aid Society.
Wheeliker said other agencies are expected to join as the project progresses, including Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter which recently hired Jacquie Boyd as its new executive director.