Story by: Matt Hoffman

In the United States, roughly 25% of women will experience intimate partner violence at some point in their lives, with the abuse ranging from acts of physical violence to emotional and even financial aggression. While it is an issue often discussed in the media, physicians still face challenges in addressing it with their patients.

Mayumi Okuda, MD, a practicing psychiatrist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, sat with MD Magazine at the American Psychiatric Association’s Annual Meeting in New York City to discuss a presentation she was a part of at the conference about intimate partner violence, commonly referred to as domestic violence. That talk included information on Columbia’s Chapman Perelman Domestic Violence Initiative, a program designed to help victims of abuse get the help and resources they need on their home turf.

Originally born from a $1 million donation from The Chapman Perelman Foundation in 2014, it started with a pilot program at the Bronx Family Justice Center (BxFJC). The services provided include psychiatric evaluations, psychopharmacologic treatment and psychotherapy, and training of other service providers at the BXFJC. Just last year, the Chapman Perelman Foundation contributed another $1 million to the project, which has since expanded to the rest of the boroughs in New York City under the direction of Mayor Bill DiBlasio.

Mayumi Okuda, MD:
Basically, the presentation was based on [the idea of] clarifying the definitions for what people call domestic violence. We use the term intimate partner violence. [We wanted] to define it, to talk about the epidemiology of domestic violence [or] intimate partner violence, and highlight how common it still is in the United States. So that was part 1 of the presentation.

The next segment of the presentation was more looking into the psychodynamics of intimate partner violence—the dynamics with between couples where there’s abuse. Then, the last segment of the presentation was geared toward giving some best practices for clinicians who are interacting with, typically, survivors or victims of domestic violence, and highlighting a model of care that we developed at Columbia where we are providing psychiatric services within a non-specialty setting.

So basically, the initiative that’s available here in New York City, but also in other cities across the US, and in other countries, [allows] survivors of intimate partner violence to connect to advocates, to attorneys, to case managers—to people helping them connect them to services. At the same time, our initiative involved including a psychiatrist within this context. So we talked a little bit about what the initiative is hoping to provide, some recommendations for clinicians who are interacting with survivors, and just highlighted how common it is for people [and] for clinicians.

[The program] takes a multi-effort initiative from different segments and different types of services. The Family Justice Center initiative [it was based on] was actually developed in San Diego, California, and it’s a one-stop shop for services for intimate partner violence survivors. That initiative that started in California was [then] expanded throughout the US, and here in New York, the mayor has an office to combat domestic violence, so they’ve allocated funding to create the centers throughout the different boroughs in New York City. That has been up and running for a while, and our contribution to this initiative was basically including the mental health services—the psychological and psychiatric services within that model.

That was done by a team at Columbia, actually the women’s program in psychiatry, with funding from the Chapman Perelman foundation, so it’s [a] philanthropic [group], the foundation that provided that funding so that we could get this started in 2014.

Now, at this point, [after] a successful pilot, that is now in the process of being replicated to the other family justice centers across New York City, and that’s receiving funding from the city. Actually, the mayor is funding this initiative together [with the Foundation], as probably some of you know, as DiBlasio really has a very strong commitment to mental health.