• December 2016
  • Vol. 17, No. 9

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New Regulations Enhance Access to Domestic Violence Services

In an effort to address the national social public health challenges caused by domestic violence, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) funds emergency domestic violence shelters, supportive services, and crisis hotlines in every U.S. State and territory, serving over 1.3 million domestic violence survivors and their families a year.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new Federal regulations that enhance access to the 2,600 HHS-funded FVPSA programs nationwide. These regulations reinforce existing FVPSA policies and guidance to better support all survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, and other forms of intimate partner violence.

The regulations clarify that the nondiscrimination requirements in FVPSA and other Government-wide civil rights protections apply to all FVPSA grantees. These requirements include prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of religion, race/ethnicity, country of origin, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

The  new regulations clarify that all FVPSA grantees are required to:

  • Ensure supportive services provided by FVPSA grantees are voluntary for survivors and their families, and that no conditions are imposed on the recipient of emergency shelter
  • Eliminate any use of unreasonable screening mechanisms and other inappropriate conditions or requirements—like requiring criminal background checks, sobriety requirements, requirements to obtain specific legal remedies, or mental health or substance use disorder screenings—for receipt of services or entry into emergency shelter
  • Ensure victim confidentiality as the top priority for keeping survivors safe and ensure the FVPSA definition of personally identifying information conforms to requirements set forth in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013
  • Coordinate statewide service planning to be more responsive to the needs of the underserved, including survivors from rural areas; historically marginalized communities; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or questioning communities
  • Promote collaborations and partnerships across communities with FVPSA-funded grantees to help ensure survivors and their families are well connected to the safety net of services available throughout local, state, and federally funded programs

To read more about the new regulations and the domestic violence challenges they address, see the blog post by Rafael López, Commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families, and Debbie Powell, Deputy Associate Commissioner of Family and Youth Services Bureau at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/blog/2016/11/ensuring-equal-access-for-all.

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act Final Rule is available on the Federal Register at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/11/02/2016-26063/family-violence-prevention-and-services-programs.

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