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Integrative Services Project - About Us

The Integrative Services Project (ISP) began in 1997 with a research project through the University of Northern Iowa Department of Social Work with Bill Downs as the principal investigator. The research team set out to determine the co-morbidity of domestic violence and substance abuse for women in Central and Eastern Iowa. The methods used were a combination of quantitative mental health, substance abuse and abuse inventory tools along with qualitative tools to determine the nature and severity of the abuse and substance use the women experienced. The team interviewed 222 women in seven domestic violence shelters/agencies and 225 women in five substance abuse treatment centers in rural and urban areas in Iowa. The data received from the research was rich and profound; in substance abuse treatment, 90% of the women reported experiencing domestic violence in their lifetime, 97% of women reported experiencing emotional abuse 6 months prior to treatment, and 67% of women reported experiencing physical abuse 6 months prior to treatment. In domestic violence shelters and agencies, 65% of women either met criteria for alcohol dependence or reported problems with their drug use. The research team believes that substance use was underreported by this population due to the no use policies of domestic violence services at that time in addition to the structure of the interviews as women had to schedule the interview several days in advance. Consequently, women with severe substance use issues who did not feel comfortable using while receiving domestic violence services may have left the program prior to meeting with the interviewer for the research. For more details on the research, click here. During the research project, a promise was made to the women who participated that their stories would make a difference and the research team would return with their data to attempt to improve services for substance abusing battered women.

Integrative Services Project is Born!
After the research was completed, the research team went back to the participating agencies to report the results; the agencies responses were mostly that of surprise. While they recognized that there is a relationship between substance abuse and domestic violence, they did not realize that the relationship was so strong and prevalent. Two sites in particular, Iowa City and Mason City, were particularly interested in using this data to make changes to their services and asked the research team for assistance.

Finding funding for an innovative project such as this was a difficult task initially as there were no grants that would support this specific type of work. UNI had a procedure by which faculty could apply to the President's office to be included in a package of Earmark requests. In December 1999, ISP's grant request for ISP was accepted by the President's office to be in that package. The President and his staff met with Senator Grassley and his staff to advocate for the entire package. ISP was one part of that package that was funded. The original sites that worked for the project were Iowa City, Mason City and Cedar Rapids.  The original Earmark grant was for the time period 2001-2004. In January 2004 we applied for a discretionary (i.e. competitive) grant from the United States Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women to continue ISP.  This grant and a subsequent OVW discretionary grant have been funded.  Since this time, ISP has worked with 19 different substance abuse treatment agencies and domestic violence agencies in Central and Eastern Iowa. For a list and links to agencies that have worked with ISP, click here.

The Mission
The mission of ISP is to enhance safety and sobriety of substance abusing battered women by ending discrimination in service provision. The ISP promotes the improvement of service delivery through research, agency education, technical support, and the facilitation of collaboration between service providers.

The Process
Collaborating with ISP is a three-year process. ISP works with a domestic violence agency and a substance abuse treatment center that cover similar catchment areas and cities. ISP begins by developing a planning committee in each agency that consists of members of administration and staff who provide direct client care including counselors, advocates, prevention specialists, technicians, volunteers, and/or secretarial staff. The planning committees from both agencies meet jointly throughout the process to develop educational trainings, review the process and response from the trainings, and develop ideas for joint services. During the planning committee meeting process, it is also integral for the members of the meetings to develop professional relationships with their colleagues in order to ease the process for collaborative work.

The agencies involved in the project are expected to provide 8-hours of basic training regarding their area of expertise, which ISP calls Domestic Violence 101 and Substance Abuse 101. Each agency has the opportunity to provide their partner agency information one what they would like to learn during these basic trainings and what they would like to teach. After the basic trainings are complete, the ISP team provides 11 hours of joint training addressing collaborative work, best practices and issues specific to substance abusing battered women.

Once the training series is complete, the agencies are to provide two new integrated services for substance abusing battered women in their agencies. Integrated services are determined by the agencies and can include co-facilitated groups by an domestic violence advocate and substance abuse counselor, continued training and in-services for staff at each agency, psychoeducation presentations in established treatment and support groups, co-located services (having an advocate or counselor go to the other agency when individual sessions are needed), job shadowing between the agencies, and case conferencing. ISP does not limit the agencies to specific integrated services, rather encourages the agencies to find creative means to reach this population in their community. Through the process of developing and implementing integrated services, the ISP team provides technical assistance and meets several times with those who will be directly providing the integrated service.

Other Endeavors
ISP began with research and continues to believe in the value of research through the process of service integration. In the original grant, ISP involved the Iowa Consortium for Substance Abuse Research and Evaluation to review the process of increased knowledge and service integration by the staff. For results of this research, click here.

ISP also began a new research project in 2005 to examine the quality of services for substance abusing battered women. They interviewed 54 substance abuse and domestic violence staff members and 70 substance abuse and domestic violence clients, using a qualitative tool focused on services they believed were helpful and areas of improvement in service provision. ISP is currently in the process of data analysis, but for preliminary results of the research, click here.

The ISP team developed the first ever Safety and Sobriety Audit, based on the Safety and Accountability Audit developed by Praxis International. The Safety and Sobriety Audit is a systems level review of how safety is taken into account while women receive substance abuse services and how sobriety is taken into account while women are receiving domestic violence services. ISP has conducted one complete Safety and Sobriety Audit for the agencies in Mason City, and is currently conducting an Audit in Iowa City. At the end of the Audit process, the Audit team which consists of two substance abuse staff members, two domestic violence staff members, and two ISP team members, provides the agency administration a report that outlines the areas of strength in the services they provide and strategies for improvement to enhance safety and sobriety for women in their agencies.

The Future
It is the hope of ISP to work with as many agencies that funding allows across the state of Iowa to improve services for substance abusing battered women. They are currently funded through September 30, 2017. ISP’s long term goal is to develop a national institute assisting other states develop and implement a similar process of service integration.


The Integrative Services Project was supported under award numbers 2001-DD-BX-0086 and 2004-WR-AX-0034 from the Office on Violence Against  Women, Office of Justice Programs, United States Department of Justice.
This research was supported under award number 96-WT-NX-0005 from the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, United States Department of Justice.

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