Jennifer Krentz awarded Governor General’s Silver Medal.
This June, Jennifer Krentz receives the Governor General’s Silver Medal. The award recognizes the SFU undergrad for her academic achievement. Krentz has been working at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital for the past two years; in this time, she completed her honour’s thesis entitled “Attendance to Risk Factors and Protective Factors in Reports for NCRMD Patients: To what Extent has Clinical Practice Kept Pace with Evidence-Based Practice.”
The thesis looked at experts’ use of violence risk assessment tools within their reports for people accused of crimes who were found Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder (NCRMD).
In Canada, when somebody is found NCRMD, their case goes to a review board. The board will decide on one of three dispositions for the accused: (1) absolute discharge, where they are released into the community; (2) a conditional discharge, where they are released into the community with conditions they must abide by; or (3) a custodial disposition, with live-in treatment in a facility like the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital in Coquitlam.
Review boards base their disposition decision on recommendations from the accused’s treatment team reports. In these reports, the treatment team should assess the accused’s risk to public safety using various risk assessment measures. Two common measures used at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital are the Historical Clinical Risk Management-20 (HCR-20) and the Short-Term Assessment of Risk and Treatability (START). The HCR-20 measures risk factors, while START measures both risk and protective factors. Examples of risk factors might be substance use and lack of social support. Protective factors include social support or assistance and care from others and employment opportunities.
Working with BCMHSUS distinguished scientist and UBC psychiatry professor Dr. Tonia Nicholls, Krentz found that treatment teams need to be more attentive to protective factors when determining recommendations.
Dr. Nicholls notes that integrating patient strengths in risk assessment, through considering protective factors, is widely regarded as essential to supporting best practices (e.g., APA, 2006), while also leading to a balanced risk assessment that considers both patient vulnerabilities and strengths.
“Research shows that recommended outcomes are highly correlated with the actual review board decisions,” Krentz said. “So, it’s important that experts use risk assessment tools to look at both evidence-based risk and protective factors.”
For her thesis, Krentz looked at reports for 68 people. They were collected from the National Trajectory Project Two, a CIHR funded study led by researchers across Canada that examines people found NCRMD across eight provinces who were discharged between 2010-2015. The study builds on the first National Trajectory Project, which looked at people found NCRMD in BC, Quebec, and Ontario between 2000-2005.
Dr. Ron Roesch, a faculty member at SFU, and Dr. Tonia Nicholls, co-supervised the thesis.
“The Governor General’s Silver Medal award is the highest honour an SFU undergrad can receive,” Dr. Nicholls added. Presented by the Governor-General of Canada, the Silver Medal is awarded to just two undergraduate students, from any university faculty. The winners boast the most outstanding record in their graduating class.
Krentz also received the International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services (IAFMHS) Derek Eaves award, which funded her thesis. Other awards from the thesis include second place for the Best Undergraduate Paper from the American-Psychology Law Society and a Certificate of Academic Excellence from the Canadian Psychological Association.
BCMHSUS recognizes her work with a Summer Studentship offer of research opportunities including co-op placements, practicums, and other supervised projects.
“I always knew I wanted to go into a helping profession,” Krentz said. “When I got to SFU I found that they offered a lot of forensic psychology classes, which I hadn’t been exposed to. So that led me to this particular area of psychology.” She adds that working and conducting research at the BC Forensic Hospital has reinforced her determination to work in this field.
Krentz presented her findings on risk and protective factors considered in NCRMD expert reports at the International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services Conference, held on June 16th & 17th 2021.