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Portnoy, Martino, Brandt to Develop New Intimate Partner Violence Center at VA Connecticut

November 23, 2020
by Jordan Sisson

Yale Psychiatry faculty Galina Portnoy, PhD, Associate Research Scientist; Steve Martino, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry; and Cynthia Brandt, MD, MPH, Professor of Emergency Medicine, will lead the development of a new Intimate Partner Violence Center for Innovation and Research (IPV-CIR) at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System (VACHS).

The IPV-CIR will be the first center of its kind at any VA Medical Center. Portnoy will serve as the director for the center, which will comprise two cores: an innovation and implementation core, directed by Portnoy and Martino, and a research core, directed by Portnoy and Brandt.

Located in, and supported by, the PRIME Center at VACHS, the goal of the IPV-CIR is to develop, disseminate, implement, and evaluate innovative, high-quality, veteran-centered, trauma-informed, and recovery-oriented practices for intimate partner violence (IPV) detection, prevention, and treatment.

IPV refers to threatened or actual physical, sexual, or psychological harm or stalking by a current or former partner or spouse. All genders can experience or perpetrate IPV, which occurs in heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy or cohabitation.

IPV is associated with increased risk of numerous physical and mental health conditions, including cardiovascular and respiratory problems, gastrointestinal issues, chronic pain, gynecological disorders and reproductive health complications, posttraumatic stress, anxiety, depression, substance use, and suicide.

“My colleagues and I are thrilled for the important opportunity to develop and evaluate best practices in IPV prevention and to inform IPV practice and policy on a national level. This work is especially exciting in the VA, which has an integrated healthcare system that can provide comprehensive response to Veterans and their families.” said Portnoy.

In 2017, Congress allocated $17 million to the VA’s National IPV Assistance Program. The IPV Assistance Program then issued a request for applications to fund an IPV innovation hub to expand comprehensive and integrated services that address and prevent IPV among the veteran population, including their partners and caregivers. VACHS was chosen from among a competitive pool of applicant VA Medical Centers across the country to receive $500,000 in funding per fiscal year, with intended ongoing support contingent on continued congressional appropriation. Portnoy said VACHS was selected, in part, due to plans to focus on IPV use and bidirectional IPV, areas with significant gaps in knowledge and practice.

"There is major work to do in IPV prevention." said Portnoy. "For instance, although key medical organizations recommend routine screening of IPV experiences among women as part of clinical practice guidelines, no recommendations nor broadly accepted screening tools exist for IPV use." In order to reduce rates of IPV, effective and acceptable screening and treatment for IPV use must exist.

“Since the seminal VHA Plan for Implementation of the Domestic Violence/IPV Assistance Program, VHA has made substantial advancements in screening for IPV experiences. Yet, the development of best practices for IPV use and bidirectional IPV are in its infancy. To prevent IPV, screening and resources for IPV use and bidirectional IPV are crucial. The IPV-CIR builds on the significant progress VHA has made in IPV response and takes the next necessary steps to extend focus to IPV use and bidirectional IPV,” said Jennifer Koget, LCSW, Acting National Director, Social Work, VA Fisher House and Family Hospitality, and Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Programs.

Submitted by Jordan Sisson on November 22, 2020