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School and Program Updates

School and Program Updates

North Texas: TESSA Program Receives New $1 Million Funding to Expand Domestic Violence Support Services

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (USDHHS) Office on Women’s Health is providing over $1 million in new funding to the TESSA (Technology Enhanced Screening and Supportive Assistance) program helping domestic violence victims, led by researchers at the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) School of Public Health and North Texas-area community partners.

The award will help in expanding services to include a focus on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission.

TESSA is designed to give a voice to victims of interpersonal violence and help them feel physically and emotionally safe, noticed and listened to. The program brings health providers, community resources, agencies and advocate services together to screen for, identify and address these individuals’ physical and emotional needs.

The program was established in 2015 with USDHHS funding and is now also supported by the Texas Governor’s Office, Criminal Justice Division.

“Interpersonal violence affects not just a person’s physical and emotional safety but also long-term health,” said Dr. Emily Spence, UNTHSC School of Public Health Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Health Equity and TESSA project principal investigator.

“Interpersonal violence has been linked to higher rates of depression and suicidal behavior, as well as a 50-70 percent higher likelihood of future chronic health conditions like asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, gynecological issues, gastrointestinal disorders, behavioral health illnesses and stress-related conditions,” Dr. Spence said.

The new grant funding will help healthcare providers in reaching victims at key points in time, through primary care settings and emergency medical visits, to add HIV prevention and care services to the other assistance programs currently provided through the TESSA network.

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