Renee Brunett '16
Renee first became aware of how law and psychiatry intersect while serving as an advocate for abused and neglected children at the Davidson County Juvenile Court in Nashville, Tennessee. She recognized quickly how parents’ substance abuse issues often were indicative of underlying mental health issues. Renee saw the need to provide services to these parents seeking to cooperate with the court and retain custody of their children. As a result, she worked with many of these parents and encouraged their participation in Family Treatment Court within a subset of neglect-dependency cases.
As a legal assistant, Renee again was exposed to the unique relationship between law and psychiatry. Although the health care law attorney she worked with chiefly represented practitioners during the tedious stages of Medicare and Medicaid audit appeals, his advisory role to the Tennessee Medical Foundation caught Renee’s attention. Specifically, she became aware that the Tennessee Medical Foundation’s Physician Health Program offered intervention, advocacy, and rehabilitation for physicians struggling with addictive diseases and mental or emotional illnesses. This unearthed her desire to serve as an advocate for physicians and champion social policies affecting mental health and legal concerns.
From an estate planning standpoint, Renee once again viewed advocacy through the lens of law and psychiatry. Her awareness of the inextricable link between mental health and our legal system magnified as she prepared annual accountings in conservatorship cases, worked with caregivers holding durable powers of attorney, petitioned the court for guardianship of minors, communicated with guardians ad litem, and learned about voluntary versus involuntary commitment.
As a Weaver Fellow, Renee is interested in exploring further how mental health issues impact our legal system and how she may use her law degree to be a hands-on advocate. Like Dr. Weaver, Renee desires to “promot[e] mutual understanding between [the] medical specialty and the legal system.”