Judge Jay Blitzman (Retired) served as the First Justice of the Massachusetts Middlesex County Juvenile Court Division. Prior to his twenty-four year judicial career he was a public defender and was the first director of the Roxbury Youth Advocacy Project, a multi-disciplinary legal services unit which was the basis for creating a state wide public defender division. Jay was a co-founder of the Massachusetts Citizens for Juvenile Justice (CfJJ), and our Our RJ, a community based diversionary restorative justice initiative. Jay serves on the advisory boards of CfJJ and UTEC, a youth and emerging adult program in Lowell, MA. He is a member of the American Bar Association BA Youth At Risk Commission and the 2019 recipient of the ABA Livingston Hall Juvenile Justice Award and was the first person to receive the Massachusetts Bar Association Juvenile and Child Justice Welfare Award. Jay has served a wide array of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Committees and was a designated judicial mentor. He publishes and presents extensively on issues which include racial and ethnic equity, juvenile and criminal systemic reform and adolescent development. He holds teaching positions at Harvard Law School (Trial Advocacy), Northeastern University School of Law (Juvenile Law), and Boston College Law School (Cradle to Prison Pipeline). Jay is also a faculty member of the Center for Law Brain Behavior (CLBB) at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, specializing in juvenile justice.
Mental Health Moonshot: Unlocking Federal Funds for Psychedelics Research
April 12, 2021, 12:00 PM
The U.S. needs a mental health moonshot.
Inspired by the Apollo moon landing, moonshots are ambitious projects with monumental goals. The U.S. has a history of funding moonshots with federal tax dollars, and the Human Genome Project is one recent example. More recently, in 2016, President Obama and Vice President Biden announced the national Cancer Moonshot to dramatically improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. That year, Congress allocated $1.8 billion to fund the project.
The U.S. needs an equally ambitious moonshot to address worsening mental health and substance use crises, leading causes of death exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are significant barriers to researching a promising new class of drugs for treating mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders: psychedelic compounds, such as psilocybin and MDMA, which are tightly controlled by the Drug Enforcement Administration. In 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez introduced a bipartisan bill to ease restrictions, which was rejected by the House of Representatives.
This panel discussed the need for an ambitious federally-funded mental health moonshot built around psychedelics and analyzed the obstacles to achieving it.
- Introduction: Carmel Shachar, Executive Director, The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School
- Mason Marks, Assistant Professor of Law, Gonzaga University; Fellow in Ethics of Technological and Biomedical Innovation, Edmond J. Safra and Petrie-Flom Centers, Harvard University
- Dr. Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, Advisory Board Member, Center for Law, Brain & Behavior (CLBB); Psychiatrist-in-Chief Emeritus and Director, Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders; and Director, Center for Neuroscience of Psychedelics, Massachusetts General Hospital
- Melissa Lavasani, Founder and Executive Director, Plant Medicine Coalition
- Franklin King IV, MD, Psychiatrist, Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders; and Director, Training and Education, Center for Neuroscience of Psychedelics, Massachusetts General Hospital
- Moderator: Elyssa Spitzer, JD, Senior Fellow in Law and Applied Neuroscience, CLBB and the Petrie-Flom Center
View the fully captioned event video.
This event is part of the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience, a collaboration between the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School.
October 6, 2020
On October 6, 2020, the 24th Judicial District Court in Louisiana held a Miller re-sentencing hearing in State of Louisiana v. Lawrence Jacobs, to determine Mr. Jacobs’ eligibility for parole. Jacobs was 16 when he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Describing the expert testimony of CLBB Associate Managing Director Dr. Robert Kinscherff as “the most helpful evidence” in the case, the court found that Jacobs’ offense had the features of transient immaturity and that Jacobs had demonstrated a capacity for embracing a positive way of life. The Court ruled that Jacobs was immediately eligible for parole. See the court’s opinion in this case here:
Highlight in the opinion: “The court finds that the most helpful evidence presented during the hearing was that which bore specifically upon defendant’s chances of rehabilitation… as Dr. Kinscherff, stated in his testimony, we don’t have to guess as to defendant’s capacity for embracing a positive way of life; we can see how he has developed.”