Gun Violence and Mental Illness Expert to Deliver Hoffman Lecture

Jeffrey Swanson

Jeffrey Swanson is principal investigator of a multistate study on firearms laws, mental illness and prevention of gun violence.

October 1, 2015

Jeffrey Swanson, the nation's leading expert in mental illness and prevention of gun violence, will speak at the University of Virginia School of Law on Oct. 7.

Swanson's presentation, "Firearms, Mental Illness, and the Law: Keeping Guns from Risky People while Keeping Faith with the Second Amendment," will explore how research evidence can be used to advance a risk-based framework for firearms policies — a practical, nondiscriminatory approach designed to fairly balance risk and rights.

The talk, the 16th P. Browning Hoffman Memorial Lecture in Law and Psychiatry, will take place at 4:30 p.m. in the Law School's Caplin Pavilion; a reception will follow.

"Most Americans are horrified by what seems to be an epidemic of mass shootings and frustrated by the failure of our elected representatives to do anything to prevent them," said Richard Bonnie, professor of law, psychiatry, neurobehavioral sciences and public policy at UVA. "If we are ever to find common ground on firearm policy, we need to keep guns out of the hands of people when they are at elevated risk of violence or suicide. That is what Jeff Swanson's path-breaking research aims to do."

A professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, Swanson studies the effects of legal interventions for adults with serious mental illness on their well-being and on public safety. In recent years, he has focused his research on policies and laws to prevent firearm violence and suicide.

Swanson is the recipient of the 2011 Carl Taube Award from the American Public Health Association and the 2010 Eugene C. Hargrove, MD, Award from the North Carolina Psychiatric Foundation, both for outstanding career contributions to mental health research. He is currently principal investigator of a multistate study on firearms laws, mental illness and prevention of gun violence, co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the Brain and Behavior Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Program on Public Health Law Research.

The author or co-author of more than 200 publications focused on the epidemiology of violence and serious mental illnesses, effectiveness of community-based interventions and services for adults with schizophrenia and other serious psychiatric disorders, laws and policies to reduce firearms violence, involuntary outpatient commitment and psychiatric advance directives, Swanson holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University.

"Jeff Swanson has made seminal contributions to the field of law and psychiatry for more than a quarter of a century, including demonstrating the effectiveness of mandatory outpatient treatment for individuals with serious mental illness and the impact on clinical outcomes of executing advance directives that govern psychiatric care when acute illness impairs the person's capacity to make competent decisions," Bonnie said. "Jeff has been a key adviser to mental health policymakers in Virginia over the past decade as we have set out to implement these two key policy innovations based on his research."

The annual Hoffman lecture was established as a tribute to the life and work of P. Browning Hoffman, who held joint appointments as Professor of Law and Professor of Psychiatry at UVA, and was the founding director of the Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy.

The lecture is co-sponsored by UVA Law's program in health law, a collaboration with the University's School of Medicine and its Medical Center, as well as other UVA schools. Students studying health law can do so in a clinical setting, interacting with medical students and physicians from all medical specialties, and work with health policy experts.

Swanson will also be featured during the UVA School of Medicine's Medical Center Hour on Oct. 7 at 12:30 p.m., and he will speak at a faculty seminar at the university's Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy on Oct. 8.

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