Meet Judith Robbins, NCCHC's New Board Chair

Posted Nov 5, 2012

 A Career in Brief 

 Professional Positions
  • Clinical social worker, Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, CT (current)
  • Director, juvenile detention mental health program, department of psychiatry, Yale Medical School
  • Special projects administrator, Yale Psychiatric Institute
  • Clinical administrator, adolescent service, Yale Psychiatric Institute
 Academic Appointments
  • Adjunct faculty, online social work master’s program, University of New England, Portland, ME
  • Assistant clinical professor, social work, department of psychiatry, Yale Medical School
 Professional Activities
  • Joint Commission’s Behavioral Health Professional and Technical Committee (NASW representative), 2010-2011
  • Academy of Correctional Health Professionals board of directors, with a term as chair, 2005-2011
  • NCCHC board of directors; executive, finance and juvenile health committees
  • JD, QuinnipiacCollegeSchool of Law, Hamden, CT
  • Master’s in social work, Columbia University, New York
  • Master’s in community planning, University of Rhode Island, Kingston

Judith Robbins, JD, LCSW, CCHP-A, became chairwoman of NCCHC’s board of directors at its annual meeting in October. She has served on the board since 2005, when, at her suggestion, the National Association of Social Workers became a supporting organization of NCCHC and she became NASW’s liaison to the board.

With a master’s degree in social work, Robbins has dedicated her career to helping individuals and families in distress, and teaching others to do the same. For 12 years, until her retirement in 2012, Robbins directed the juvenile detention mental health program in Connecticut, where services are provided by Yale Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry. She remains active professionally through work as a clinical social worker at Yale-New Haven Hospital and teaching social work courses at the university level.

In the early years of her career, Robbins was based at Yale Psychiatric Institute (now Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital), providing treatment services and, increasingly, taking on administrative roles. Through this work she had some interaction with the criminal justice system, but she never expected that the correctional milieu would become her primary interest.

From Hospital to Detention Center

That changed in 1995 when, while working as an administrator on an adolescent psychiatric unit, she received a call from a colleague at the Connecticut Judicial Branch.

“Connecticut’s pretrial juvenile detention centers had been ordered by the federal court to improve health care services,” Robbins explains. “I was asked to come aboard to develop a mental health program for the pretrial kids. For 16 years, I worked in the trenches in that program as an administrator and a clinician. Despite it being very hard work, it was the best experience of my career.”

The federal consent decree required that the facilities become accredited by NCCHC, and that’s how Robbins learned about the Commission. Establishing the mental health program was a daunting task, but she felt a great sense of relief when she was given a copy of the NCCHC Standards for Health Services in Juvenile Detention and Confinement Facilities.

“As I read the standards, I felt increasingly hopeful—and very grateful to NCCHC,” says Robbins. “That day, my bond with NCCHC was set in stone.” She credits the juvenile standards as a major force in improving the correctional health services in the state’s juvenile detention centers, and the largest facilities did indeed become accredited.

Given her strong dedication to the juvenile population, it was only natural that Robbins would participate on NCCHC’s juvenile health committee, and she also served as its chair for several years. During that time the committee oversaw a revision of the Juvenile Standards as well as development of several clinical guidelines tailored for the juvenile correctional setting.

As board chair, Robbins’ scope of interest is broader. “I am attuned to all issues impacting upon NCCHC’s health and growth,” she says. “Above all, I’m greatly interested in strategies to substantively involve more correctional professionals and settings with NCCHC and its accreditation program.” This mission is important to her because she knows how valuable NCCHC guidance and support can be; she experienced it firsthand when developing and directing Connecticut’s juvenile detention mental health program.