Northern Arizona University and the NARBHA Institute have partnered to create an endowed professorship that focuses on the intersection of criminal justice and behavioral health.

The NARBHA Institute will provide financial support to establish The NARBHA Institute James Wurgler MD Chair of Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. This position recognizes The NARBHA Institute’s 50-year legacy of service in behavioral health and honors the chairman of The NARBHA Institute board of directors, James Wurgler, for his contributions in medicine and civic service and highlights the importance of behavioral health in the context of criminal justice in northern Arizona, said Karen Pugliesi, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

The NARBHA Institute, in concert with the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice and the college, seeks to create an environment for experts in criminal justice and behavioral health to collaborate with community partners in pursuit of innovations in practice, policy and academics. This professor will bring expertise to the region that will align behavioral health and justice efforts, identifying opportunities to improve outcomes through evidence-based best practices and behavioral health strategies with a focus on care for the poor and vulnerable members of the region.

“Health challenges and crime are linked through a mix of individual health and environmental factors including mental illness, poverty, food insecurity, unemployment and homelessness,” Pugliesi said. “The James Wurgler MD Chair of Criminal Justice and Behavioral Health will collaborate with community partners and other NAU researchers to develop innovative approaches to improving access to behavioral health care and reducing contact with the criminal justice system.”

This endowment also is expected to enhance efforts with the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences to promote thriving, resilient communities in the region and open new possibilities for collaboration that will ultimately benefit all citizens of northern Arizona.

A search process is under way to hire the James Wurgler MD Chair for the 2018-19 academic year.

About the NARBHA Institute, Inc.

The NARBHA Institute advances societal well-being in northern Arizona by inspiring hope, energizing coalitions, amplifying diverse voices and serving as a catalyst and convener of innovative solutions and evidence-based practices. The institute is the nonprofit partner in the integrated regional behavioral authority (RBHA) for northern Arizona. Based in Flagstaff, it provides governance oversight of the integrated RBHA as well as services and support related to health and the social determinants of health, such as sustainable economic development and supported housing, with the goal of decreasing disparities in individual wellness throughout the region.