UNC Psychiatry launches Forensic Psychiatry Program and Clinic

January 8, 2008 — The Department of Psychiatry in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine has expanded its psychiatric services in the forensic area with the opening of a new Forensic Psychiatry Program and Clinic.

The Department of Psychiatry in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine has expanded its psychiatric services in the forensic area with the opening of a new Forensic Psychiatry Program and Clinic.

The new program, which provides a wide range of criminal and civil services, such as determining the capacity of defendants in criminal cases to stand trial as well as the capacity of individuals in civil cases to manage their own finances or refuse treatment, is the only program of similar scope in North Carolina that is based on the campus of a major research university.

“This enables us to draw upon all of the other resources available through UNC-Chapel Hill and the UNC Health Care System,” said Dr. Sally C. Johnson, one of three clinicians who comprise the program’s evaluation and research team. “That is a tremendously helpful feature of our program, because completing comprehensive evaluations on individuals who need forensic psychiatry services often includes utilizing other medical and laboratory services. These services, as well as consultation with a variety of experts in other fields, are readily available at UNC. We hope that the research we are doing will ultimately prove helpful to the medical and legal professionals who are involved in the handling of cases where forensic psychiatry plays a role.”

Dr. Johnson brings to the program extensive experience from her career service as a public health physician and as an evaluator and administrator in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She has conducted forensic psychiatry evaluations of defendants in many high-profile criminal cases, including former TV evangelist Jim Bakker, would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley and Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski (i.e., the “Unabomber”), which she conducted while employed as Chief Psychiatrist and Associate Warden of Health Services for the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C.

In addition to Dr. Johnson, team members include Dr. Alyson Kuroski-Mazzei, who also serves as Associate Training Director of the Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship Program for psychiatry residents who plan a career in this subspecialty area, and Dr. Eric Elbogen, a scientist-practitioner with specialized clinical and research expertise in forensic and neuropsychological assessments.

Research projects currently under way include a study of factors associated with increased risk of suicide and violence among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and analyzing statutory language in juvenile sex offender laws in all 50 states. The goal of the latter project is to describe how juvenile sex offender laws define juvenile sex offenses and in what ways jurisdictions are similar or different, evaluating the key challenges and difficulties in applying such laws in the context of recent criminal cases.

This program allows attorneys, clinicians and clients to obtain focused or comprehensive assessments unique to their legal questions and needs. The program operates a clinic, housed in the North Carolina Neurosciences Hospital at UNC Hospitals, which will provide consultation and evaluations on an outpatient basis.

More information about the Forensic Psychiatry Program and Clinic and updates about clinic activities and training opportunities can be found at http://www.psychiatry.unc.edu/forensic/ or by calling (919) 966-5540.

Media contact: Stephanie Crayton, (919) 966-2860 or scrayton@unch.unc.edu

About UNC Health Care

The UNC Health Care System is a not-for-profit integrated health care system owned by the state of North Carolina and based in Chapel Hill. It exists to further the teaching mission of the University of North Carolina and to provide state-of-the-art patient care. UNC Health Care is comprised of UNC Hospitals, which is ranked among the top 50 in the nation in six specialties by U.S. News & World Report and ranked one of the country’s 41 best on the Leapfrog 2007 Top Hospitals list; the UNC School of Medicine, a nationally eminent research institution; community practices; home health and hospice services in seven central North Carolina counties; and Rex Healthcare and its provider network in Wake County. UNC Health Care also manages Chatham Hospital in Siler City.