Dr. Virginia Barber-Riojas earned her Ph.D to the Clinical Psychology at John Jay Training Area, a discipline within the Graduate Center’s PhD Program in Psychology, in 2009. Upon graduation, she became the Clinical Director of Queens TASC Mental Health Diversion program, an alternative to incarceration program that works in collaboration with the Queens Mental Health Court, the District Attorney’s office and the defense bar. In this position, she helped reshape the program into a clinically informed diversion program that utilized testing and evidence-based risk assessments to aid the courts with eligibility decisions. She subsequently worked for three years as an attending psychologist in the Forensic Inpatient Unit of Bellevue Hospital Center, which provides treatment and assessment to incarcerated individuals with acute psychiatric conditions. In 2012, Dr. Barber Rioja became the Clinical Director of EAC Network’s Brooklyn and Staten Island court mental health diversion programs and jail and prison re-entry programs. In this job, she helped developed the Staten Island Mental Health Court, as well as a prison re-entry program for individuals with Severe Mental Illness. While in this position, Dr. Barber Rioja became a member of the Mayor’s Task Force on Behavioral Health and Criminal Justice, providing consultation for diversion initiatives and specifically for implementation of evidence-based violence risk assessment and management for some of the Mayor’s initiatives, such as NYC Safe. She has also served as a consultant on this topic to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
With the goal of bringing knowledge of forensic psychology to applied audiences, Dr. Barber Rioja provides a great deal of teaching in the community, which entails training behavioral health providers who serve justice-involved individuals, probation and parole officers, defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges across NYC. As a faculty member of the Center of Urban Community Services (CUCS)’s legal academy, Dr. Barber Rioja has provided trainings on violence risk assessment and clinically informed diversion to prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges in all boroughs. She also serves as faculty for the Practicing Law Institute, a non-profit continuing legal education organization that organizes and provides CLE programs around the world. She currently serves as a faculty in the Department of Psychiatry of New York University School of Medicine where she has provided clinical supervision to psychology interns and didactics to psychiatry fellows, and as an adjunct professor in the Psychology Masters Program of New York University. Dr. Barber Rioja also maintains a private forensic practice involving immigration, state and federal court cases. Over the years, she has developed a particular interest in improving practice standards for psychological evaluations in immigration proceedings; she has consulted with immigration attorneys and provided trainings in this topic.
Dr. Barber Rioja is currently a member of the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Legal Issues (COLI), and a board member of the International Association of Therapeutic Jurisprudence. She has published and presented workshops on the topics of criminal justice diversion, implementation of risk assessment instruments in special jurisdiction courts, and psychological evaluations in the context of immigration proceedings. She has served as an ad hoc reviewer for the International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, Law and Human Behavior, Revista Criminalidad (Colombia), and European Journal of Forensic Mental Health.
On May 2, 2016, Dr. Barber Rioja became the Clinical Director of Correctional Health Services (CHS) of the New York City Health and Hospitals. The New York City jail system is the second largest in the nation, with approximately 10,000 individuals aged 16 years of age and older incarcerated at any given time in 12 facilities. Approximately 25% of admissions will receive mental health services through CHS. In this position, Dr. Barber Rioja is responsible for the overall clinical oversight, management, supervision and innovative development of the approximately 250 non-medical clinical staff, largely comprised of supervisory and line psychologists, mental health clinicians, social workers, art therapists, and treatment aides.