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Alex Vosick Barnard

Assistant Professor of Sociology, New York University

About Alex

Barnard's research focuses on understanding mental health policy in a comparative context. Overarching themes in Barnard's writing include inequalities in access to medical care and disability benefits, decision-making around involuntary treatment, and changes in institutions providing services to people living with severe mental illnesses in. Barnard has written op-eds and policy briefs on mental health policy and presented his research to clinicians and policymakers in France and the United States. He also participates in working-groups around long-term care in California.


In the News

Alex Vosick Barnard quoted on conservatorships aren’t typically applied until a person “has done nothing less than almost dying by Jennifer Gerson , "After Britney Spears’ Plea, a New Look at Conservatorship" The 19th , July 1, 2021.
"Open Forum: Save San Francisco’s Board-And-Care Homes — and Then Fix Them," Alex Vosick Barnard (with Neil M. Gong), San Francisco Chronicle, September 17, 2019.
"CA Threatens to Turn Back the Clock on Mental Health Care," Alex Vosick Barnard, Street Sheet, February 19, 2019.


"Coerce to Conserve? Reconstructing California's Continuum of Constraint," forthcoming.

Analyzes, based on interviews with government actors, public defenders, and clinicians in over twenty counties in California, the use of legal guardianship ("conservatorship") to obligate gravely disabled individuals into care. Reveals the way that the conservatorship process excludes individuals with co-morbid substance abuse, criminal justice contact, or histories of violence, exacerbating the problem of homelessness in the state.

"Courting Compliance and Consent: Legal (In)Stability in Involuntary Civil Commitments in Paris and New York," Under Review.

Notes despite the closure of the majority of public psychiatric beds since the 1960s, involuntary hospitalization remains a key moment in the trajectory of many people with severe psychiatric illnesses through the public mental health system. Draws on observations of hundreds of judicial hearings to decide on the continuation of involuntary care to show why hearings contribute to deepening a patient's embeddedness within the public mental health system in Paris while exacerbating their chaotic trajectory between hospitals, jails, and the street in New York.

"Bureaucratically Split Personalities: (Re)ordering the Mentally Disordered in the French State" Theory and Society 48, no. 5 (2019): 753-784.

A 2005 reform to France's disability system sought to provide new services and supports to help people living with severe mental illness live independently in the community. Based on months of observations and interviews in a French disability office, the paper shows how the decision-making tools and heuristics used by disability bureaucrats nonetheless excluded this population from many of the benefits to which it was entitled.