Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this session participants will be able to:

  • Describe the historical literature regarding opportunities and challenges with videoconferencing forensic evaluations

  • Describe steps taken in one state to transition to video forensic activities in the context of a pandemic

  • Recognize lessons learned for ongoing access to quality forensic evaluations

Presented By

Debra Pinals, MD

Dr. Pinals is the Medical Director of Behavioral Health and Forensic Programs for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and is the Director of the Program in Psychiatry, Law, & Ethics and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School, and Clinical Adjunct Professor at University of Michigan Law School. She is Board Certified in Psychiatry and Forensic Psychiatry, and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine. In Michigan is serves on the state’s Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Commission. From 2008 to 2016, she was the Assistant Commissioner of Forensic Services for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH), and between 2012 and 2014 served as the Interim State Medical Director. Over her career Dr. Pinals has worked as a psychiatrist in community mental health, inpatient settings, forensic and correctional facilities, emergency rooms and court clinics. She has spearheaded the development of police-mental health partnerships and training, and overseen protocol development and clinical services for treatment courts and prisoner reentry. She has lead 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 supports and aim to reduce recidivism for justice involved individuals with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders and trauma histories. Dr. Pinals has also overseen substance use disorder evaluations for the courts and has helped construct and design treatment programs for persons with substance use disorders and mental health conditions. Dr. 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. She is also a past chair of the Forensic Division of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors and current Secretary of the Medical Directors Division. She has received numerous awards including the 2016 Massachusetts Manuel Carballo Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Service award as part of a team responsible for the design and development from the ground up of the state-run intensive Women’s Recovery from Addictions Program (WRAP). Dr. Pinals has participated in a variety of criminal and civil forensic evaluations. She has provided state level in-service trainings and consultations, and she serves as a Senior Consultant to Policy Research Associates, Inc and has consulted for the SAMHSA GAINS Center. She has published widely on the intersection of justice and behavioral health.

Donna Rinnas, PhD

Dr. Donna Rinnas is the Division Director of Evaluation & Forensic Services at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry for the State of Michigan Department of Health & Human Services. She is also an adjunct clinical instructor in the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Rinnas completed her doctorate in clinical psychology with a specialization in neuropsychology from Wayne State University in Detroit. She went on to complete postdoctoral fellowships in clinical psychology from the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Baltimore and in clinical neuropsychology from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. She was in private practice in Manchester, New Hampshire before returning home to Michigan to start her public service career as a forensic psychologist. Her current focus is on overcoming administrative and public health challenges to provide timely and quality forensic mental health services to individuals and the Michigan courts, as well as on multi-stakeholder collaboration to enhance diversion from incarceration of individuals with mental illness and intellectual disabilities.

Jay Witherell, PhD

Dr. Jay Witherell is a forensic psychologist and the Director of Evaluation Services at the Michigan Center for Forensic Psychiatry (CFP). In this position he oversees the daily operations of a service responsible for evaluating all defendants referred for evaluations of competency to stand trial and criminal responsibility throughout the State of Michigan. He was previously the coordinator of the predoctoral psychology practicum at the CFP and continues to supervise pre-doctoral students and post-doctoral employees. He is also an adjunct clinical instructor in the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry where he provides supervision and training to psychiatry residents and fellows. Dr. Witherell also contracts with several public safety departments to conduct employment-related psychological evaluations and provide other consultation. Dr. Witherell’s research interests include the use of the MMPI-2 and MMPI-2-RF in pre-trial forensic and pre-employment evaluations. He is a native of Toledo, Ohio and received his bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Detroit Mercy and completed his pre-doctoral internship at Saint Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC.