Sound Mental Health takes over operation of domestic violence program

Sound Mental Health, one of the state's most comprehensive behavioral health services providers, with a center and counseling services in Auburn, recently announced that it has assumed management and operation of the Safe Havens Visitation Center.

Safe Havens is a federal pilot program for secure visitation that has served more than 350 families impacted by domestic violence.

Launched by the city of Kent in 2005, the facility is recognized nationally as a model program that ensures safety for families impacted by domestic violence – where the abusive parent is court-ordered to have supervised visitations with their children. In late 2010, however, the program lost federal funding and was set to close its doors. Under SMH's oversight, the program re-opened in February 2011.

Now called Safe & Sound Visitation, the program expands Sound Mental Health's children's behavioral health programming, which includes the Children's Domestic Violence Response Team (CDVRT), therapeutic foster care and youth mental health programs. By wrapping Safe & Sound Visitation into its domestic violence service array, SMH will realize considerable opportunities to better serve children and families trying to recover from domestic violence.

The CDVRT is a pioneering program in which SMH collaborates with domestic violence advocacy agencies county wide to provide integrated mental health treatment and domestic violence advocacy services. Additionally, SMH offers batterers intervention treatment through its Behavioral Responsibility Program.

Domestic violence affects more than 60,000 children in King County each year. Recent studies conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that domestic violence in the home is a primary indicator of increased dropout rates in school, a lifetime of mental health and chemical dependency issues and increased criminal activity. Recognizing the unique opportunity to strengthen its preventive specialized care to better meet the needs of children affected by domestic violence, Sound Mental Health believed it was a logical move.

"Sound Mental Health is dedicated to addressing the complex needs of our community's most vulnerable people," said David Stone, Sound Mental Health CEO. "Pairing with Safe Havens enables SMH to expand our commitment to preventive services to youth and children, whose health and well being reflect the future of our community in so many ways."

According to Safe & Sound Visitation director Tracee Parker, a lack of domestic violence visitation standards in the state leaves survivors of domestic violence – overwhelmingly women and children – at significant risk of continued abuse, injury, or even death.

"The union between Sound Mental Health and Safe Havens made strategic sense for both organizations and ensures that this unique and worthwhile program continues to exist," she said. "But what I find most promising is the fact that SMH has a stellar track record of innovation, which offers extraordinary possibilities to implement and replicate the program well beyond our current location."

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