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Institute of Living Introduces Forensics

November 18, 2016

It’s not “CSI” yet, but it’s a start. Identifying a growing need in medical, legal and academic circles, the Institute of Living is launching a forensic psychiatry program that will offer psychiatric expertise in a variety of civil, criminal, and legislative areas.

The new Forensic Consultation Service provides specialized services such as risk assessment, competency to stand trial evaluations, disability assessments, fitness for duty evaluations (including worker’s compensation evaluations), criminal state of mind evaluations (e.g. Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity and Extreme Emotional Disturbance defenses), evaluations of sex offenders, determination of testamentary capacities, immigration and asylum evaluations, and independent evaluations of Habeas Corpus petitions.

“We are recognizing this as a valuable service that is becoming more in demand,” said John Bonetti, DO, an IOL psychiatrist and associate director of the new service.

As an example of the kind of work the service will provide, Dr. Bonetti recently completed a lengthy evaluation of a person who had filed a claim against an employer after undergoing a traumatic experience in the workplace. Dr. Bonetti was asked to determine if the employee’s psychiatric issues could be directly linked to the workplace incident, or if the employee was already exhibiting symptoms beforehand.

Cases such as this, which involve civil claims, will make up the bulk of the new service’s workload as it establishes itself and builds a reputation, Dr. Bonetti said. In time the service hopes to expand its services to include more work in criminal cases, offering psychiatric expertise and other services to law enforcement or prosecutors conducting investigations.

“I think when many people hear the word ‘forensic,’ they instantly think of the “CSI” television shows and that kind of thing, but there is actually a need for this kind of service in a broad range of civil and criminal legal settings,” he said.

The American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law describes forensic psychiatry as, “a subspecialty of psychiatry in which scientific and clinical expertise is applied to legal issues in legal contexts embracing civil, criminal, and correctional or legislative matters.”

Along with Dr. Bonetti, who completed an advanced residency in forensic psychiatry at Yale University, the new service will benefit from the expertise and experience of IOL Psychiatrist in- Chief Harold I. (Hank) Schwartz, MD and IOL psychiatrist Peter M. Zeman, MD, who is board certified in forensic psychiatry.

The goal is for the service to become a launch pad for education of staff, trainees and patients advocacy and policy work, academic publications and presentations, community work within the legal field and law enforcement. In addition, the service hopes to work closely with training psychiatrists, sparking interest in the field and aiding the development of some of the skills needed to practice in this sub-specialty.