Despite increased prevalence of domestic violence and abuse (DVA), victimization through DVA often remains undetected in mental health care. To estimate the effectiveness of a system provider level training intervention by comparing the detection and referral rates of DVA of intervention community mental health (CMH) teams with rates in control CMH teams. We also aimed to determine whether improvements in knowledge, skills and attitudes to DVA were greater in clinicians working in intervention CMH teams than those working in control teams. We conducted a cluster randomized controlled trial in two urban areas of the Netherlands. Detection and referral rates were assessed at baseline and at 6 and 12 months after the start of the intervention. DVA knowledge, skills and attitudes were assessed using a survey at baseline and at 6 and 12 months after start of the intervention. Electronic patient files were used to identify detected and referred cases of DVA. Outcomes were compared between the intervention and control teams using a generalized linear mixed model. During the 12-month follow-up, detection and referral rates did not differ between the intervention and control teams. However, improvements in knowledge, skills and attitude during that follow-up period were greater in intervention teams than in control teams: β 3.21 (95% CI 1.18-4.60). Our trial showed that a training program on DVA knowledge and skills in CMH teams can increase knowledge and attitude towards DVA. However, our intervention does not appear to increase the detection or referral rates of DVA in patients with a severe mental illness. A low detection rate of DVA remains a major problem. Interventions with more obligatory elements and a focus on improving communication between CMH teams and DVA services are recommended.
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