Category: Discovery & Impact, Research

Title: Removing Red Tape: McCourt School Research Helps Support Domestic Violence Survivors

Date Published: September 2, 2020

Redesigning the Process

“We read about administrative burdens, looked at our method of referral, and made small but important changes,” said David Martin, chair of the Domestic Violence Unit in the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. “More than anything, we want people to get the services they need.”

The prosecuting attorney’s office previously helped domestic violence victims connect to community services such as legal aid, counseling, and housing services by providing victims with a list of contact information for available community services.

People seeking services were thus responsible for identifying which organizations to call and set up appointments.

The system often did not serve the people most in need, just those who knew how to navigate the administrative complexities. Additionally, with little to no information transferred about the victim’s case and circumstances, a victim seeking services often recounted their story and what they went through in every new interaction.

After reading a tweet about administrative burdens by Moynihan, Martin shared the research with his colleague Natasha Willson, victim advocate at King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The research sparked Natasha’s idea to improve the referral process by creating an electronic form for victim advocates to fill out, with the victim’s permission, to improve information transfer between agencies.

“For scholars working in public policy, there is no better feeling than knowing that our research made a difference in people’s lives.”

Don Moynihan, McCourt School Professor

“The idea was, instead of sending victims to navigate this crazy field and navigate the complexities of each agency,” explained Willson, “we would develop a referral form that allowed the agencies to understand what support was needed and connect people more directly and quickly.”

Building Trust

The referral form, while simple in theory, required collaboration across many organizations and agencies with varying administrative processes. Willson led the multi-year effort by collaborating and building trust with community partners and agencies. After piloting the process with a few agencies and seeing positive results, the effort expanded.

The current process no longer requires a victim to call a provider for help, but rather the agencies receive the referral form and reach out to the victim with information on how they can help. The victim also does not need to re-share information about their case because there is a process for information transfer.

“It’s a better, more thoughtful way to engage with people,” said Willson. “It does not reduce every administrative burden, but it helps.”

Research to Impact

“It has had a real-world impact,” said Martin, who reached out to Moynihan over email to share how the administrative burden research helped inspire a better process.

“For scholars working in public policy, there is no better feeling than knowing that our research made a difference in people’s lives,” Moynihan said. “It is a great example of how building conversations between McCourt School scholars and those working in public service can create the spark that leads to better public outcomes.”

Martin and Willson intend to expand this effort and continue finding ways to reduce administrative burdens. They are part of a small team at the prosecuting attorney’s office working on an initiative called Project Safety, which connects crime victims with critical and time-sensitive support services that primarily support historically marginalized communities.