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Developing and communicating linked responses to substance use and intimate partner violence

Background: 

Aspects of pandemic containment measures have exacerbated both intimate partner violence (IPV) and substance use (SU) in the context of COVID-19. UN Women has named violence against women a “shadow pandemic” and called for immediate action to mitigate increases in gender based violence in this context. SU patterns have also been affected during the pandemic, with Statistics Canada reporting an increase in alcohol, cannabis and tobacco use. The links between IPV and SU are complex and multidirectional, but for those who experience both, comprehensive services and information are needed. Funded by the CIHR’s COVID-19 and Mental Health Initiative the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health (CEWH) undertook a Rapid Review that examined the role of COVID-19 and SU in IPV, with the goal of using this knowledge to support a range of services providers to better respond to these interconnected issues. This presentation describes the process to develop resources co-created with organizations from the SU and violence against women fields, and the KT strategies used to catalyse immediate action by service providers. 

Methods:

Drawing upon the findings of a Rapid Review (the methods and findings can be found in an academic report (https://bccewh.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Rapid-Review-Full-Report-1.pdf) and a journal article (https://www.mdpi.com/2411-5118/2/4/40), we worked with three service partners: Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, Women’s Shelters Canada, and the Justice Institute of BC, to co-develop practical materials for first responders, IPV and SU workers.  The ultimate goal of the knowledge products created was to support the urgent need for more comprehensive knowledge and evidence to inform responders and services during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Results:

Based on collaboration with service partners and the rapid review results, we identified the complexities and bidirectionality of the relationship between SU and IPV, along with multi-faceted contributing factors and numerous physical and mental health impacts. 

We identified other promising adaptations to treatment and support for SU or IPV designed in the pandemic context such as online information and support. Yet, very few integrated responses were identified, highlighting the need for a comprehensive and merged response, and our role in creating enhanced understanding and capacity. We co created a three-part KT infographic to convey all aspects of this challenging task, including a succinct evidence summary, identification of common principles in responding, and a resources list.  The sections summarized:

  1. How to conceptualize the interconnections among the issues
  2. How to enact common principles for practice 
  3. How to access resources to support integrated practices. 

The reach of this “evidence to practice” resource continues to unfold through significant engagement via partner websites, social media postings and ongoing invitations to offer training to workers. 

Conclusions:

IPV and SU are often experienced together by many women. Integrating awareness of both IPV and SU and creating pathways for dual responses by service providers is essential to effectively promote the immediate and long-term health and safety of women. COVID-19 exacerbated this need. Co-creating pragmatic knowledge-to-action resources with key service provider organizations is essential to improving practice. 

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