Violence Prevention Council receives Rural Health Team award

Accepting the “Rural Health Team” award at the Minnesota Rural Health Conference June 25 on behalf of the Violence Prevention Council (VPC) of Morrison County were (from left): Sister Mary Pat Burger, OSF, from the Catholic Health Initiatives Mission and Ministry Fund, Pat Rioux, St. Gabriel’s Hospital manager of communications and co-facilitator of the VPC and Julie Kapsch from Hands of Hope Resource Center and violence prevention coordinator.

The Violence Prevention Council (VPC) of Morrison County received the Minnesota “Rural Health Team” award at the Minnesota Rural Health Conference in Duluth. The VPC received the statewide honor for its outstanding contribution to rural health.

The VPC is a collaborative effort among St. Gabriel’s Hospital, Hands of Hope Resource Center and a broad spectrum of individuals from throughout Central Minnesota, including a district judge, a county social worker, public health nurse, a chemical dependency counselor, an emergency services nurse, police chiefs from two communities, a pastor, a corrections officer and a domestic violence survivor, among others.

The Council received the award both for its collaboration and innovation. It uses a “spectrum of violence” approach to reducing partner violence in Morrison County by targeting “upstream” activities to change societal norms. Just as other public health initiatives have successfully changed norms related to child safety restraints and tobacco use, the Council uses a variety of public education and media strategies to change how partner violence is perceived. It also works to bolster community resources dedicated to violence prevention and to improve how domestic violence is handled.

Recent projects include working with Little Falls Community High School students to create “Photo Voices” – video clips about partner violence that air within the school and will soon run on a local cable access channel – and collecting detailed data at the site of domestic violence incidents to provide a strong-er base for prosecution and sentencing.

Following the Council’s first full year of implementation, the number of domestic assaults in the county dropped from 62 to 48; orders for protection decreased from 56 to 31; and violations of those orders dropped from 35 to 15.

“We are pleased and honored to receive the award,” said Pat Rioux, manager of communications for St. Gabriel’s Hospital and co-facilitator of the VPC. “Our council members’ commitment to partner violence prevention is the reason for our success. The Council is an exceptional group of dedicated individuals. Without their participation, there is no ‘team.’ In addition, we are happy to note that we will be continuing our efforts to reduce domestic violence in the county, thanks to  receiving the second-year funding of a three-year grant from Catholic Health Initiatives, the parent organization of St. Gabriel’s Hospital. CHI’s support has been crucial to our success as well.”

The medical staff at Albany Area Hospital and Medical Center was also nominated for the 2012 Rural Health Team award.

The Rural Health Hero award was also presented at the conference. It went to O.J. Doyle, a longtime advocate for emergency medical services (EMS). Doyle, a resident of St. Paul, received the hero award for over two decades of legislative efforts and innovation to strengthen the state’s EMS system, particularly in rural areas.

Local family practice physician, James Gehant, MD, was also nominated for the 2012 Rural Health Hero award.

The Minnesota Rural Health Conference presents the Rural Health Hero Team award each year. This year’s conference, “Bringing It All Together,” was hosted by the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Rural Health and Primary Care, the Minnesota Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Resource Center. More information about the conference is available at