Domestic violence (DV) programs, advocates, and survivors have long voiced that survivors and their children who experience mental health- and substance use-related challenges face barriers in having their needs met. The pervasive effects of DV place survivors and their children at increased risk for a range of adverse health outcomes including those related to mental health and substance use. Experiencing poverty, racism, and additional forms of oppression often serves to both limit survivors’ options and deepen these challenges. Abuse by an intimate partner can also worsen existing challenges related to survivors’ mental health and substance use. Furthermore, abusive partners may use survivors’ mental health- and substance use-related challenges against them to further undermine, control, and harm them; these tactics are known as mental health and substance use coercion. While DV programs do remarkable work with limited resources, programs report that increasingly survivors and their children come to their doors with more complex needs. Defunding community mental health, substance use, housing/homelessness, and other social services has directly impacted survivors. They have fewer options for services and supports related to mental health and substance use. As a result, these cuts in social services have also impacted DV programs, which are often trying to fill service gaps within their community or region.
To better understand these issues, NCDVTMH administered a nationwide needs assessment to DV programs across US states, territories, and Tribal nations in 2019. The goal of this needs assessment was to learn more about DV programs’ capacity to meet the needs of survivors and their children with challenges related to substance use or mental health.