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Pinals, Debra

Adjunct Professor
Winter 2021


​Dr. Debra A. Pinals is a clinical adjunct professor at the University of Michigan Law School. She also serves as the director of the Program in Psychiatry, Law, and Ethics and as a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School. She also is the medical director of behavioral health and forensic programs for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. She is board certified in psychiatry and forensic psychiatry, and is a diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine. From 2008 to 2016, she was the assistant commissioner of forensic services, and between 2012 and 2014, she was the interim state medical director for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. During her career she has been a clinical psychiatrist in community mental health, inpatient settings, forensic and correctional facilities, emergency rooms, and court clinics. She has taught medical professionals, attorneys, judges, state administrators, law enforcement, and legislators. She spearheaded the development of police-mental health partnerships and training, and helped facilitate protocol development and clinical services for treatment courts. She spent nearly a decade in her work overseeing reentry services for inmates with serious mental illness leaving jails and prisons, conducting suicide mortality reviews, and monitoring mental health, dental, and medical care for inmates in segregation units in Massachusetts prisons. She has led and participated in several justice and behavioral health federal grants, and is co-developer of MISSION-Criminal Justice, a model of wrap-around services that provide support and aim to reduce recidivism for justice-involved individuals with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders and trauma histories. She has participated as an expert witness in a variety of criminal and civil forensic evaluations. Professor Pinals also has overseen certification for evaluators and the provision of court-ordered forensic evaluations across Massachusetts.

Professor Pinals is a past president of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, and current chair of the American Psychiatric Association Council on Psychiatry and the Law. In those roles she has participated in the writing of numerous amicus briefs for appellate cases in which the legal regulation of psychiatric practice or mental health and the law are critical issues. She is a past chair of the forensic division of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors and the current secretary of the Medical Directors Division. She has received numerous awards including those related to specialty court services and juvenile justice. She received the 2016 Massachusetts Manuel Carballo Governor's Award for Excellence in Public Service as part of a team responsible for the design and development of the state-run intensive Women's Recovery from Addictions Program. She has consulted for the Federal Aviation Administration, and serves as a senior consultant to Policy Research Associates Inc. and the SAMHSA GAINS Center. She has published widely on the intersection of justice and behavioral health.