Patients with mental illness and their family members not only have to manage the complications of their medical services, but also have substantial interactions with other social institutions such as the legal, correctional, and governmental systems. The Psychiatry, Law and Society Program provides expertise to help individuals and their care providers navigate important ethical and legal questions that arise in their care.
The PLSP educates future leaders in the field of Psychiatry and the Law, and spearheads innovative solutions at the interface of mental illness and the legal system, community, and health care policy. We drive specialized research to improve and shape mental health policies, destigmatize mental illness and substance use, and change the way communities deal with gaps in continuous mental health care.
Beyond educating patients and the community, our faculty take a collaborative approach to educating and training healthcare professionals. We host didactics and seminars for trainees and support opportunities for them to connect with multiple societal systems (i.e. courts, jails, state hospitals) that manage the needs of the mentally ill.
Program research focuses on improving social, governmental and legal systems that play a role in the treatment of the psychiatric patient. The program examines the deleterious effects of untreated psychosis and mood disorders on overall health and risk of harm to patients and to the community. The program conducts comparative research in mental health law, in order to help psychiatrists, other health professionals, and patient families navigate the legal system and understand assessment and treatment needs. Additional activities include partnering with global mental health specialists to address and advise global policy makers on improvements in mental health law.
PLSP offers liaison services to the hospital by advising around legal issues (e.g. Tarasoff and duty to protect, level of risk, questions of capacity and competency, international legal differences, medical and psychiatric guardianship) and helps clinical teams strategize the best plan of action. Additionally, we consult and have specialty clinics for patients who require care that interacts with the probationary system and mental health court. We advise on bridging care for patients who are having trouble maintaining their court ordered treatment, have problematic behaviors, and patients who have complicated legal issues.
Additionally, our faculty provide consultation to legal counsel and the courts on issues that emerge at the intersection of mental illness, the law and risk management.
Jhilam Biswas is the Director of The Psychiatry, Law and Society Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She is a board-certified forensic psychiatrist with a focus on social systems, cultural dynamics, criminal justice reform, and legal issues impacting psychiatric care. Since 2015, Dr. Biswas practiced forensic and clinical psychiatry at Bridgewater State Hospital, a strict security forensic hospital and prison. She also conducted court-ordered forensic evaluations as a licensed Designated Forensic Professional (DFP). Dr. Biswas serves on the Council of the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society (MPS) and is the Co-Chair of the Forensic Interest Group and Co-Director of the Annual Risk Management Course at MPS.
Dr. Biswas graduated from Dartmouth College where her interest in social systems began. She majored in Sociology and was the founding Director of the Dartmouth Coalition for Global Health and a founding Editor of the Standpoints Journal, two flagship programs of the Dartmouth undergraduate global health initiative. She went to medical school at University of Massachusetts Medical School, trained in residency at the Harvard Longwood Psychiatry Residency Program, and completed a fellowship in Psychiatry and Law at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She also completed the APA/SAMHSA Minority Fellowship with a focus on global mental health during the same year. Dr. Biswas has multiple scientific publications and is currently on the editorial board of the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. In addition to her appointment at the Brigham, she holds clinical psychiatric appointments at Bridgewater State Hospital as a forensic psychiatrist and at Simmons University as a collaborative care psychiatrist for the Health Center.
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