The National Health Collaborative on Violence & Abuse (NHCVA) presented policy recommendations on mental health and substance-use-related effects of violence at a policy briefing on June 1, 2023. During the previous years, Congress has provided unprecedented financing for behavioral health programs and victim assistance. There was an emphasis on how to use the funds to mitigate the effects of violence and abuse through effective health interventions and timely policy measures.

The violence and abuse briefing emphasized that acts of violence and abuse are associated with an extensive range of mental health and drug use outcomes, significantly increasing the risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and suicide attempts. The briefing opened with a video statement from Senator Capito (R-WV) and speakers included Christopher M. Jones, Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention, Karen Gentile, Director of the Office of Policy Coordination and Innovation, Carole Warshaw, Director of the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma, and Mental Health, Shawndell N. Dawson, Director of the Office of Family Violence Prevention and Services, Christina Mullins, Director of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Ana M. Caskin, MD, Associate Medical Director for Community Pediatrics at Medstar Georgetown Hospital, Jennifer Rohlf, Director of Empowerment at the YWCA Northeast Indiana, Kiersten Stewart, Director of Health at Futures Without Violence, and Lisa James, Director of Futures Without Violence. According to the briefing, more than 70% of domestic violence programs indicate an increase in demand for mental health and substance use services. All the featured health practitioners, including mental health providers, and advocates provided their perspectives on effective interventions and policy proposals to effectively address the link between abuse, violence, and behavioral health.

The interaction of mental health, substance abuse, violence, and child welfare are intricate and varied. Efforts to address the nexus of mental health, substance use, violence, and child welfare necessitate a multidisciplinary and comprehensive approach. Understanding these linked elements allows experts to collaborate to promote the well-being of children and families affected by violence and develop more effective preventative and intervention techniques.

By Asia Leah, Policy Intern