Collaborative Healing Advocate Initiative Supports People Impacted by Sexual and Domestic Violence Across Health Systems

In 2023, more than 1,400 individuals who presented at Milwaukee-based health system emergency departments and inpatient settings were identified as people impacted by sexual or domestic violence. In multiple triennial community health needs assessments (CHNA), violence has been identified as a top community health issue in Milwaukee County. As such, the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership (MHCP) has included Violence Intervention and Prevention as a key issue area, acknowledging the critical role health care plays in the assessment, treatment, and continued support of people directly impacted by violence.

To increase access to support and advocacy services for people experiencing sexual and domestic violence, MHCP members developed and launched the Shared Healing Advocate Initiative in 2022, with funding from the MHCP Shared Community Investment Fund.

The Healing Advocate assists survivors after they have been screened and counseled by a Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE) in completing required reporting, developing a safety plan, connecting to community resources, and exploring long-term support. Through the initiative, MHCP members created a shared Healing Advocate position to respond to referrals across all four Milwaukee-based health systems with the hope of demonstrating improved outcomes and spreading this service to other health care organizations. Employed within Aurora Health Care’s Healing and Advocacy Services department, the shared position leverages the leadership, expertise, and current health systems’ FNE infrastructure– while building capacity and consistency of care among all systems.

“Through transparent conversations, we collectively identified this gap in services and were able to develop a cooperative solution,” said Justin Rivas, Director of Community Health Initiatives, MHCP. “Not only does this initiative increase access to care for victims, but it also allows us to collect improved data to better understand the need and ultimately scale efforts.”

To date, the shared Healing Advocate has served 100+ survivors in five different hospitals across the four Milwaukee health systems. Prioritizing individuals of high need, 72% of the survivors served were Black/African American, 31% were displaced or homeless, 93% were Medicaid recipients, and 83% were unemployed.  

“We are uniquely positioned as health care providers to both deliver care and ensure our patients have the continued support to end any cycles of violence they have experienced – and build a full life,” said Sharain Anderson, Enterprise Associate Vice President of Social Health, Aurora Health Care. “Ensuring patients have this resource through the shared Healing Advocate no matter where they seek care is important at an individual and community level.” For more information about the Healing Advocate service, contact Sharain Anderson at