Debra A. Pinals, MD

Professor, Psychiatry, Medical School; Clinical Adjunct Professor, Law School


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.

Research Interests

Dr. Pinals' research interests include the legal regulation of psychiatric practice, law and psychiatry, justice and behavioral health, ethics, juvenile justice, forensic psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, decision-making capacity, substance use disorders and the law, privacy and confidentiality, violence and mental illness, public mental health services, forensic evaluation, civil commitment, guardianship, specialty courts, and jail diversion

Dr. Pinals' projects include:
-MISSION-Michigan Reentry Program (Mi-REP)

Opioid-related Publications

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