Research Studies

Faculty of the CPSPD are engaged in forensic and general community psychiatry/psychological research. Projects have been supported by federal, state, and private grants to include funding from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP); South Carolina Telehealth Alliance; Thorn Foundation; University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research; South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, State Homeland Security Grant Program; National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Drug Abuse DART (Drug Abuse Research Training Program); American Academy of Psychiatry & the Law Institute for Education & Research. Research partners include/have included other divisions within the MUSC Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, other South Carolina state agencies, the University of South Carolina (Columbia), Johns Hopkins University, Augusta University, and the Royal Ottawa Health care Group. Current and recent past projects include:

Mental Health Outcomes of The Post-Critical Incident Seminars

This Study is evaluating the symptom severity of mental health issues prevalent in the law enforcement professional population as well as covariates of symptom severity and changes in longitudinal samples of persons who complete the Post-Critical Incident Seminar (PCIS) program.

Mental Health Comorbidities Among Individuals Charged With Sexual Offenses

Studies are underway assessing sexual offending to include examining psychiatric and behavioral comorbidities with paraphilic disorder diagnoses. Additionally, a study assessing the intrusiveness of sex offenses and the presence or absence of injuries sustained based on the nature of the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator is also being conducted.

Physiological Assessment of Sexual Arousal

Another area of research within the CPSPD is improving the assessment of physiological sexual arousal using penile plethysmography (PPG) and photovaginal plethysmography (VPP). These studies strive to standardize the interpretation of these measures and to test the validity of various stimuli sets for use with these measures.

Reducing the Impact of Behavioral Health Crises - Telehealth Model to Link Emergency Medical Services with Mental Health Clinicians

Emergency Departments (ED) have been overwhelmed with behavioral health patients with some not requiring ED-level care. On-scene response by Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is not always adequate to resolve the situation, but could be with real time mental health professional consultation. The 24/7/365 Assessment Mobile Crisis (AMC) team is a resource for addressing many behavioral health crises in the community. This project was designed to assess if mobile technology can effectively be used for de-escalation of community crisis situations encountered by EMS. Goals of de-escalation or quickly linking clients to appropriate level of care are achieved through video-voice links between EMS personnel on scene of the crisis and AMC team clinicians. An advantage of a telehealth approach is to decrease response time for AMC, so that EMS can return to service for other emergencies in the community, while still rapidly meeting the health care needs of the community.

Understanding Sexual Offenders and Substance Use - Implications of Specific Drug and Alcohol Use Before and During Offending

This study uses data on substance use and sexual offending from a large multi-site sample of males who have committed sex offences in order to identify: the prevalence of substance use prior to, and during, the commission of sexual offenses; correlations, if any, between specific types of substances and subtypes of sexual offending; the similarities and differences of substance use patterns for men who have committed hands-on versus hands-off sexual offenses; the substance use patterns of male sexual offenders based on victim type (child or adult). Findings can benefit professionals conducting risk assessments and/or providing treatment to this population.

Risk of Sex Offenders Reoffending During Incarceration in Prison and their Targeted Populations

The aim of this study is to determine the risk of sex offenders reoffending during their incarcerations and their associated risk factors in that setting. An additional aim is to identify potential victims of sex offenders in prison and the rate of crossover sexual offenses. The overall goal of this study is to provide information to correctional institutions and governments on all levels that will protect potential victims in custody settings and improve treatment of incarcerated sex offenders.

Sexually Violent Predators and Comorbid Substance Use

This study was conducted to add to the evidence base on the role of illicit drug and alcohol use with regards to persons committed under a state Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Act. Using data collected from the South Carolina (SC) SVP Act Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) Database maintained by the MUSC CPSPD, information regarding substance use, mental health diagnoses, criminal justice, and sex offense data was analyzed for those persons recommended for MDT review.

Evaluation of Cue-Induced Brain Activation in Pedophilic Offenders

This pilot study was designed to compare the brain activation responses and phallometric responses of men with pedophilic disorder to a control group of men with no known pedophilic interests using a standardized set of audio-taped stimuli describing sexual activity. The specific aim of this study is to determine if the brain activation responses correspond to the phallometric responses and to determine if the brain activation responses can reliably differentiate between sexual arousal and non-sexual arousal in men with pedophilic disorder vs. those without the disorder. Functional MRI may not only provide a new way to assess unhealthy sexual interest, but also reveal central nervous system arousal patterns that may provide clues to the etiology of pedophilic disorder and in turn improve treatment.

Protecting Children Online

With the goal of using research-based analysis to facilitate prioritizing law enforcement internet investigations, this study used data from Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) task forces across the United States - offender characteristics, crime characteristics, and online behavior - to develop recommendations for assisting law enforcement in prioritizing (1) cases involving production of child pornography over possession/distribution; (2) cases involving online luring for the purpose of meeting the minor to commit sexual offenses, over luring restricted to online behavior such as sexual chat or exchanging pornographic images; and (3) cases involving offenders who have committed hands-on sexual offenses against children, over cases involving offenders with no known history.

Internet Crimes against Children Typology

To develop a typology of offenders for use in prevention, investigations, and treatment, this study used data from Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) cases investigated by ICAC Task Forces in multiple states with a focus on perpetrator, victim, and offense data and content analysis of Internet chats to solicit children. Results serve to inform the mental health, social services, education and legal fields for use in forensic evaluations, treatment planning, criminal investigations, court proceedings, and developing public safety strategies for protecting our communities youth.