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Program to halt violence gets $250,000 boost

by Paul Dingsdale

The LAC+USC Medical Center’s Violence Intervention Program (VIP) has received a $250,000 grant from the S. Mark Taper Foundation to expand services at its Family Advocacy Community Clinic.

The grant will provide funding for two licensed clinical social workers, a half-time psychologist and a clinic coordinator.

“We are very grateful,” said program founder Astrid Heger, professor of pediatrics and executive director of VIP. “Thanks to the S. Mark Taper Foundation Grant, we will be able to expand services to our community and double the number of individuals who currently receive mental health care.”

In 1984, Heger founded the LAC+USC Center for the Vulnerable Child (CVC), which has earned international recognition for its work with neglected and abused children. In 1995, the CVC expanded to treat entire families and the VIP was born.

Since it opened, the program has expanded at a rapid rate. In 1997 the staff treated about 350 women and 175 children. By last year, that figure had grown fourfold, and the latest injection of funds from the S. Mark Taper Foundation will see the program provide services for many more individuals.

The VIP provides 24-hour response and a variety of services to victims of family violence and sexual assault. Among other benefits, the program is a vital resource for staff members of the LAC+USC emergency room.

“Domestic violence is an issue for as many as 50 percent of women who arrive at an emergency room for treatment,” said psychologist Catherine Koverola, director of mental health and research at the VIP program.

Beyond intervening in a crisis, VIP workers provide access to legal services, job training programs as well as continuing mental health care.

Mary Morahan, the VIP’s coordinator of clinical training, notes that women have turned up at the program’s door, terrified, with children in tow and little else. “If a woman and her kids show up, we give them food and clothes, find them space in a shelter and then give them tokens for the bus or a voucher for a taxi to get them there,” Morahan said.

The S. Mark Taper Foundation, founded in 1989, is a private family foundation dedicated to enhancing the quality of people’s lives by supporting nonprofit organizations.

Program to halt violence gets $250,000 boost

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