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3.31.2015

UM Professors Address Prosecutors Against Gun Violence

Charles Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D., professor and Chairman of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and Spencer Eth, M.D., professor and Director of the Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship at the Miller School and Chief of Mental Health at the Miami VA, joined members of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence (PAGV) last Tuesday for a summit that focused on management of mental illness and gun violence. The event highlighted issues such as mass shootings, trauma’s role in mental health, enhanced veterans’ services and reforms to the public mental health system.

PAGV, an independent, non-partisan coalition founded and co-chaired by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, worked to identify prosecutorial and policy solutions based on the best practices of prosecutors across the country. Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle hosted the conference, the group’s second summit since last fall.

“This was a remarkable group assembled by Katherine Rundle, our forward-thinking state attorney,” Nemeroff said. “With district attorneys of major U.S. cities and representation from law enforcement, the judiciary, mental health professionals and advocates against gun violence, the dialogue was vibrant and did not shy away from controversy.”

Nemeroff and Eth sat on a panel that discussed “Improving Outcomes and Best Practices: Focus on Veterans and Trauma Victims.” They were joined by the Honorable Steven Leifman, 11th Judicial Circuit Associate Administrative Judge, and Don L. Horn, Chief Assistant for Administration, Counsel to Grand Jury, and Co-Chair of the Police Involved Shooting Committee in the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.

“Misconceptions about the severely mentally ill, especially as regards their being prone to violence, were refuted,” Nemeroff said. “Most importantly, the role of training law enforcement personnel in understanding the nature of severe psychiatric disorders and how to deal with those who suffer with these illnesses to prevent violent confrontations between police and psychotic patients was repeatedly shown to be an effective strategy.”

Fernandez Rundle said, “It was a pleasure to host 34 elected district attorneys from all around the country who came to Miami to learn more about the intersection between mental health and gun violence. I was very proud that our Miami collaborative model was highlighted. This approach may well become a national model for the entire country, much like our creation of Drug Courts. All of us left with a better understanding of the dynamics of mental illness, violence and the path to prevention.”

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