Services, Policy & Law

Group of people collaborating around a table

The Services & Policy Research Program is a multidisciplinary team of behavioral health services and policy researchers in the Division of Child and Family Mental Health and Community Psychiatry within the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. We conduct research in the following areas:

  • Behavioral Health & the Law: We investigate the impact of the criminal and civil legal systems on treatment outcomes for individuals with behavioral health conditions, as well as risk and protective factors mediating the relationship between violence and mental illness. 
  • Gun Violence Prevention: We study firearm-related crime, injury and mortality from a public health perspective, with a focus on evaluating legal tools designed to prevent gun violence in populations considered to be at high risk due to clinical or criminal-legal histories. Our research analyzes large, linked records databases to build evidence for feasible public policy measures that could meaningfully reduce the number of firearm injuries and deaths—including suicides—without stigmatizing people with behavioral health conditions or unduly curtailing the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
  • Psychiatric Advance Directives: Psychiatric Advance Directives (PADs) permit individuals to draft legal documents to direct and consent to treatment in advance of a behavioral health crisis. Research at Duke focuses on implementation and dissemination of PADs and their effectiveness in improving outcomes for persons with mental illness.
  • Services & Policy Research: We evaluate the effectiveness of treatment modalities in the context of “real world” clinical settings to improve outcomes for adults with behavioral health conditions. This work involves examining the complex interactions between healthcare policy and psychiatric services and their effects on access to services, quality of care, treatment outcomes and financial cost, particularly when treating at-risk clinical populations.

Additionally, our faculty members actively participate in mentoring postdoctoral fellows through the Wilson Center for Science and Justice at the Duke School of Law.