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Kathleen Palmer, 2019 Accomplished Under 40

Kathleen Palmer

27 • Sexual violence prevention program manager •

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare • Boise

Kathleen Palmer’s career helping victims of sexual assault started while she was attending college at California Polytechnic State University.

After coming to terms with her own history of assault, she started working for the domestic violence hotline. She would talk with victims and survivors at their moments of greatest need, helping connect them to resources and get them to safety.

What started with answering phones has blossomed into a career focused on preventing violence and providing help and solutions for people who have suffered because of it.

As sexual violence prevention program manager for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Palmer helps connect resources and design programs statewide. She works with people from all corners of the state and all walks of life to reach what she admits is a very lofty goal.

“We have the honor of figuring out what a violence-free Idaho looks like, and then working toward that to prevent violence from occurring even in the first place,” she explains. “It’s exciting work — it’s good work. I really try to honor the experiences and ideas of people and, because it is lofty, no one person can figure that out.”

Palmer has initiated a new statewide program, FUTURES Without Violence’s Project Catalyst, which connects doctors with local advocacy centers. Now, instead of asking a patient whether they are a victim of violence, doctors tell them how relationships can impact their health. Doctors then send women, teens and LGBTQ-identifying patients away with informational cards that help them find safety and healing if they want to, Palmer says.

In addition to helping train doctors, Palmer has helped connect clinics with advocacy centers. Now, if a patient tells her doctor she is being abused, there’s a “warm hand-off” to a shelter, Palmer says. At the same time, advocacy centers are starting to provide health screenings.

Palmer secured the first grant, has found a second source of funding and is in the process of applying for two additional federal grants.

In addition to her work with clinics, Palmer has been instrumental in the Idaho Sexual Assault Kit Initiative. She has worked extensively on furthering trauma-informed care in medical settings, she explains.

Palmer’s work extends to prevention, as well. She has convened a group of stakeholders addressing the root causes of violence, such as access to transportation, poverty and food insecurity. She has also securing funding to attend a campus sexual assault action planning training, enhanced training for community health workers and adult protective services and much more.

“Katy inspires me every day to become a better leader and helps me to see connections between individuals, relationships, communities, and society,” writes Nicole Runner, section manager of risk prevention and reduction at the Idaho Division of Public Health, in a letter of recommendation.

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