Women and children escaping domestic abuse often need more than shelter. Many also have serious medical issues.
To address them, Rose Brooks Center, one of the area's largest domestic violence shelters, on Thursday opened a new two-bed health clinic inside its Kansas City facility.
Susan Miller, Rose Brooks' CEO, says the clinic will fill a vital need for the more than 800 women and children sheltered by the agency each year.
"One of the things we've come to recognize over time is how difficult it is for women who have suffered domestic violence to access healthcare," Miller says.
In addition to physical injuries that may result from abuse, women in abusive relationships often are denied access to doctors by their partner. They may also lack insurance or access to transportation needed to get care.
The result: many of the women seeking shelter also have serious and long-standing health needs.
Miller says female victims of domestic violence have an 80 percent greater chance of coming down with heart disease, a 70 percent greater chance of having a stroke and a 60 percent greater chance of getting asthma.
Rose Brooks' marketing manager, Sharla Nolta, says the stigma of abuse can prevent some women from seeking needed medical care.
"There's always some nervousness and some fear about revealing to a medical practitioner, 'I'm a survivor of domestic violence,'" Nolta says. "And when they come to the clinic here, their practitioner knows."
Rose Brooks' SafeCARE clinic will offer a wide range of medical services to both residents and former residents. Services are being donated by Goppert-Trinity Family Care Center, among other providers.
Nolta believes the opening of the clinic makes Rose Brooks the sole domestic violence shelter in the area with an on-site clinic.
Besides providing emergency shelter, the 35-year old agency offers a violence prevention program in schools, a hospital advocacy program in six area hospitals, a children's therapeutic program and other services to more than 15,000 women and children each year.