The Denver Forensic Institute for Research, Service and Training (Denver FIRST)
Denver FIRST serves as a regional hub for expertise in forensic mental health. We foster community and university partnerships through a host of research, service and training opportunities. Current projects and partnerships include work with adults and juveniles involved with the criminal justice system. Areas of particular expertise include forensic mental health evaluations, outpatient competency restoration, immigration/asylum issues and forensic neuropsychology.
Our policy and advocacy work focuses on improving forensic mental health systems, ensuring standards for professionals and evaluations, and advocating for legislative reform for marginalized persons. Our accomplished faculty hosts a wide range of forensic psychology expertise. By engaging in research, clinical services and training, we aim to improve forensic mental health practices locally and globally.
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Our expertise and experience empower us to provide forensic mental health services throughout Colorado. We lead the way in developing and implementing cutting-edge, evidence-based practices. Services offered include:
- Outpatient competency restoration
- Forensic assessment and evaluation
- Animal cruelty and animal abuse evaluations
- Immigration-related evaluations and interventions
- Case management and assessment of forensic and at-risk individuals
- Neuropsychological screening and assessment
- Denver FIRST Juvenile Justice Project
Our research interests are broad, but center mostly on the applications of evidence-based practices. Faculty serve in various capacities for national research initiatives as journal editors, journal reviewers, and conference reviewers, and have also authored books and produced other scholarly work outside the traditional academic journal review process. Current projects include:
- Assessing the reliability, validity and quality of forensic mental health evaluations
- Training and certification of forensic mental health evaluators
- Improving decision-making in forensic evaluations
- Supervision and care of persons acquitted by legal insanity
- Exploring the effectiveness of outpatient and jail-based competency restoration interventions
- Evaluating attitudes toward violence risk in mentally ill offenders from relevant disciplines (mental health, judiciary, law enforcement, corrections)
- Examining the effectiveness of screenings and interventions for incarcerated populations with potential traumatic brain injuries
We're a leading source for forensic mental health training, offering various training sessions, workshops and consultations for forensic evaluators and professionals. Our interactive, cutting-edge trainings are tailored to the needs of each individual client. Recent trainings and presentations include:
- Mental health issues in immigration proceedings (Colorado Bar Association / Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network)
- Forensic mental health: A review of competency, legal sanity, and violence risk (Federal Public Defense Counsel)
- The College Gateway Program: A model community re-entry program (Colorado Community Development Association)
We also provide consultation on the certification of forensic evaluators.
We offer a postdoctoral fellowship in forensic psychology. The fellowship runs though the academic year (early September through late August) and provides opportunities for practice, research and teaching. Fellows have the opportunity to network with mental health professionals, administrators, judicial personnel, correctional personnel and other justice system professionals around Colorado. The didactic portion of the fellowship is integrated with the forensic psychology fellowship at the Colorado Mental Health Institute - Pueblo and the University of Colorado's forensic psychiatry fellowship program.
Our 2020-21 Fellow
Katelyn Hernandez, PsyD
Postdoctoral Fellow, Denver FIRST
Nova Southeastern University
Dr. Hernandez is the 2020-2021 Postdoctoral Fellow in Forensic Psychology at Denver FIRST, where she primarily completes forensic evaluations, supervises, and teaches. She graduated from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL and completed her predoctoral internship at Eastern Virginia Medical School/Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, VA. She has previously worked in a variety of forensic settings, including correctional facilities, psychiatric hospitals, and outpatient diversion. Her primary clinical interests/career goals are in the areas of criminal and civil forensic evaluations, complex trauma, teaching, and supervising. She is particularly passionate about the impact of childhood adversity and trauma on adult functioning, specifically as it relates to criminal behavior and systemic change in reducing violence.
Our Previous Fellows
Each of our fellows passed the EPPP during their fellowship years and had no problems obtaining their psychology licenses in Colorado or other states shortly after completing their fellowships.
Jennifer McMahon, PhD
PhD, John Jay College, 2019
Our 2019-20 fellow, Dr. McMahon, is employed as a forensic psychologist and lead clinical of the Jail Based Competency Evaluation and Restoration Program for the State of Colorado. She also teaches as adjunct faculty and works as an affiliate of Denver FIRST.
Kate McCallum, PhD
PhD, Sam Houston State University, 2018
Our 2018-19 fellow, Dr. McCallum, is now employed as a forensic psychologist at a local Denver correctional facility. She also has a successful private practice conducting forensic evaluations, and she also works as an affiliate of Denver First.
Karen Grabowski, PhD
PhD, Texas Tech University, 2017
Our 2017-18 fellow, Dr. Grabowski, is employed as a forensic evaluator for the State of Colorado. She also has a private practice, teaches as adjunct faculty, and works as an affiliate of Denver FIRST.
Lauren Best, PsyD
PsyD, Pacific University, 2016
Our 2016-17 fellow, Dr. Best, operates a successful private practice and is also employed part-time as a forensic evaluator at a state hospital in Oregon.