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Assessing Intimate Partner Violence in Community Mental Health Centers

Research Project 3: Assessing Intimate Partner Violence in Community Mental Health Centers: Can We Improve Engagement?

Principal Investigator: Catherine Cerulli, JD, PhD

Project Period: 8/1/2015 through 7/31/2017

Abstract: This study addresses two critical identified need areas: intimate partner violence (IPV) and suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STB).  The project embarks on a systematic process to bridge the gap between research findings pointing to the extraordinary mental health burdens borne by victims and the lack of services to treat their mental health burdens by testing a computer-assisted survey instrument (CASI) to enable patients to disclose their needs to their providers.  IPV victims represent a “selective” high-risk population for preventing further adverse outcomes – e.g. suicide attempts and suicide, further victimization, or homicide – as well as an “indicated” symptomatic population in great need of care.

This project also explores and begins to mitigate the stigma faced by victims when they disclose their victimization status to their mental health providers and to assess moderators for disclosure.  Pilot findings suggest that even with safety planning and judicial orders of protection in place, victims’ mental health burdens remain high.  Initial results from pilot research and other studies reveal IPV victims are reluctant to share their victimization status for fear of child protective reporting, blame, and stigmatization.  By educating the patient about the role of their mental health provider in injury reduction, we can begin to integrate care and break down silos between helping agencies.

The results of this study will provide the necessary empirical foundation for future clinical services trials to more effectively address comorbid STB and IPV.  In this time of shrinking resources and increasing demands for integrated care, CASIs provide an opportunity for patient education and injury prevention.