Alex Vosick Barnard

Assistant Professor of Sociology, New York University
Chapter Member: New York City SSN

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.


No Jargon Podcast

In the News

Quoted by in "American States Wrestle With How To Treat Severe Mental Illness," The Economist, October 19, 2023.
Quoted by Thomas Curwen in "California Is Reinventing How It Deals With Mental Illness," Los Angeles Times, October 12, 2023.
Opinion: "California Needs New Rules As It Forces More Mentally Ill People Into Treatment," Alex Vosick Barnard, Los Angeles Times, September 22, 2023.
Quoted by Rachel M. Cohen in "Some Homeless People Won’t Go to Shelters. Should They Be Left Outside?," Vox Media, September 14, 2023.
Opinion: "Forcing Homeless People Into Treatment Can Backfire. What About a Firm Nudge?," Alex Vosick Barnard (with Neil Gong), The Washington Post,
Opinion: "Before Forcing More Mentally Ill Into Treatment, California Should Actually Try Helping Them First," Alex Vosick Barnard, San Francisco Chronicle, December 18, 2021.
Quoted by Jennifer Gerson in "After Britney Spears’ Plea, a New Look at Conservatorship," The 19th , July 1, 2021.
Opinion: "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.
Opinion: "CA Threatens to Turn Back the Clock on Mental Health Care," Alex Vosick Barnard, Street Sheet, February 19, 2019.


"Conservatorship: Inside California’s System of Coercion and Care for Mental Illness" (Columbia University Press, 2023).

Examines the functioning—and failings—of California’s conservatorship system. Argues that California’s state government has abdicated authority over this system, leaving the question of who receives compassionate care and who faces coercion dependent on the financial incentives of for-profit facilities, the constraints of underresourced clinicians, and the desperate struggles of families to obtain treatment for their loved ones.

"From the “Magna Carta” to “Dying in the Streets”: Media Framings of Mental Health Law in California" Society and Mental Health 12, no. 2 (2022): 155–173.

Examines media coverage of California's Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act in an effort to understand how the framing of challenges posed by people with severe mental illness to the social order has evolved over time. Highlights a shift in media framing from emphasizing the fear of violence to a new focus on mentally ill individuals "dying in the streets" and the need for re-institutionalization to save them.

"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.