Methods: As one component of a multifaceted statewide needs assessment, violence prevention and intervention staff were recruited through statewide and local networks to complete an online survey. Questions were asked about collaborations, impacts of violence, and the organizations they worked for. Representing 91% of Illinois counties, 130 respondents participated in the survey, and they served in trauma-informed care, victim services and advocacy, youth development and education, mental health, and child maltreatment prevention services. Multilevel modeling was conducted to examine county-level socio-economic and violence indicators, and geography type (urban, suburban, rural), in relation to provider perceptions of evidence-based programs and violence prevention supports in their service areas. All analyses were conducted in Mplus to account for the nested nature of the data (i.e., service providers nested within counties).
Results: Compared to providers in urban and suburban areas, rural providers were less likely to offer violence prevention, workforce development, trauma-informed care, and educational opportunities, and they were less knowledgeable about evidence-based violence prevention programs. Additionally, despite the perceived importance of protective factors in preventing violence—including positive childhood experiences, social-emotional learning, and family engagement and support— rural providers reported that felt they were not adequately able to address these factors in their communities. Finally, providers from counties with higher rates of violence and more socio-demographic disadvantage were also more likely to report barriers to delivering violence prevention programs.
Conclusions and Implications: This study highlights geographic considerations in offering violence prevention and intervention services. These results identified urgent and disparate provider needs by geography and county-level risks. These findings build on existing literature that has found that service providers in rural and disadvantaged communities may have inadequate access to training specific to the victim populations, long distances and travel to services, and a lack of services tailored to specific forms of violence. Therefore, it is imperative to take stock of providers’ needs, as these individuals offer key insights into their community’s unique needs and offer multi-systemic suggestions for promoting healthier communities.