Dr. Margie Balfour Receives Criminal Justice Award from NAMI

Margaret “Margie” Balfour, MD, PhD, an associate professor in the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Psychiatry, received the Sam Cochran Criminal Justice Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The award is typically given to people who are employed within the criminal justice system and work to improve the fair and humane treatment of people with mental illness within the system. Dr. Balfour is the first person not employed by the criminal justice system to receive the award.

“My work has been focused on keeping people with mental illness out of the justice system altogether by creating crisis services that are easy for law enforcement to access,” Dr. Balfour said. “Receiving an award like this means that our criminal justice colleagues see this as partnership, and that’s really gratifying, because that’s what we’ve been working to achieve.

“This work motivates me both as a physician, from a clinical perspective, and as a citizen, from a social justice perspective,” she added. “There is a gaping disparity between how medical versus psychiatric emergencies are handled in most communities.”

Outside of the University, Dr. Balfour is the chief of quality and clinical innovation at Connections Health Solutions, an organization that provides behavioral health crisis care to those in need. Connections Health Solutions operates and manages the Tucson Crisis Response Center, an observation and evaluation facility that provides help to people experiencing various types of crises.