UMass Medical School correctional mental health expert to be keynote speaker at Australia, New Zealand psychiatry conference

November 23, 2015

Kenneth L. Appelbaum, MD, a UMass Medical School expert on mental health for incarcerated populations, will be a keynote speaker at the Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law’s “Systems, Clients and Patients: Psychiatry, Psychology and Law” conference Nov. 25-28 at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra in Canberra, Australia.

Dr. Appelbaum will give his keynote presentation, “A Consultant’s Perspective and Recommendations on Safety-Related Challenges Facing Mental Health Systems and Hospitals,” Nov. 26, and present a workshop on “Assessing Patient Risk and Considering Prosecution for Patient Violence” Nov. 25. The conference is co-sponsored by the Faculty of Forensic Psychiatry of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.

“Violence in psychiatric facilities has become an endemic problem in the United States and abroad. A 2009 Special Report by the U.S. Department of Justice found that the rate of assaults against individuals in mental health occupations was exceeded only by the rate against people who work in law enforcement,” said Appelbaum, a clinical professor of psychiatry at UMass Medical School and director of correctional mental health policy and research at the Center for Health Policy and Research, a unit within UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division. Appelbaum also is co-editor of the Oxford Textbook of Correctional Psychiatry, the first comprehensive resource on criminal justice mental health issues.

“Consultations to mental health facilities and systems in the wake of increasing attacks against staff and other patients reveal common themes. Consistent and especially significant findings include inadequate staffing levels and insufficient system capacity with shortages in hospital beds and community programs,” he said. “These deficiencies have arisen as states have collectively cut well over a billion dollars in funding for mental health budgets in recent years. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes severe injuries or homicides of staff or patients to halt and begin to reverse this decline in resources.”

Appelbaum’s workshop will focus on comprehensive violence risk assessment, which includes biological, psychological, interpersonal and environmental domains. He will discuss assaults by patients on staff or other patients that sometimes raise questions about possible prosecution. Appelbaum has proposed a decision-making model for the clinician that balances legal justifications for criminal sanctions against ethical, clinical and practical considerations.

The other keynote speaker is David Cooke, who is a professor of forensic clinical psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University and visiting professor at the University of Bergen, Norway.

Commonwealth Medicine operates the Health and Criminal Justice Program, which focuses on research and scholarship, education, and service and consulting. The program also runs the Academic Consortium on Criminal Justice Health, which hosts an international, interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed conference annually on correctional health and health policy.

The program’s consulting work involves managing contracts to provide health services for federal correctional institutions. Clients include the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Federal Medical Centers in Devens, Massachusetts, and Butner, North Carolina, as well as its Federal Correctional Institutions in Ray Brook, New York, and Berlin, New Hampshire.

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