Elaine Zahnd, a sociologist and senior research scientist at the Public Health Institute (which works with the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research on the California Health Interview Survey) is the lead author of a new policy brief on intimate partner violence (IPV) and mental health. In this brief interview, she talks about why medical providers sometimes do not screen for IPV, the importance of quantifying the link between IPV and mental health, and the uncertain outlook for state support of programs and services that assist IPV victims.
Q: Why don’t medical personnel routinely screen for psychological distress if they know a patient has experienced IPV?
EZ: With the support of domestic violence advocates, funders and policymakers in California, screening for IPV by physicians and other health providers in medical settings has increased over the years, although it is conducted primarily in OB/GYN offices and with female patients. Although screening questions for IPV assessment have been designed for quick administration, they do take some time away from routine examinations. And if a patient screens positive for IPV, medical personnel then need to follow-up with counseling and referrals, which requires further provider training.