Longtime Chautauqua program contributor Norman Ornstein is an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the vice president of the Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Foundation, named in memory of his son Matthew, who died accidentally on Jan. 3, 2015, after a 10-year struggle with serious mental illness.
Ornstein returns to Chautauqua to lead a conversation with former director of the National Institute of Mental Health Thomas Insel, and Associate Administrative Judge of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida Steven Leifman, examining the brain and mental health, and the ways societal systems can better serve those with mental illness. This conversation will serve to launch a larger series of virtual programs on CHQ Assembly’s various digital platforms in Fall 2021, dedicated to this important topic.
Ornstein is a contributing editor and writer for The Atlantic and has been an election eve analyst for CBS News and BBC News. He is also chairman of the board of the Campaign Legal Center. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, his many books include One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate and the Not-Yet-Deported, with E.J. Dionne and Tom Mann. Ornstein has a B.A. from the University of Minnesota and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.
The Matthew Harris Ornstein Memorial Foundation, which sponsors a summer debate institute for public school students in the Washington, D.C. area, spearheaded the documentary “The Definition of Insanity,” which premiered at the Miami Film Festival in March 2020 and was broadcast nationally on PBS in April 2020, about the transformational program on criminal justice and mental illness created by Judge Steve Leifman in Miami-Dade Country, Florida. Leifman, an associate administrative judge for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, has served as Special Advisor on Criminal Justice and Mental Health for the Supreme Court of Florida since 2007, and is known for his efforts to keep mentally ill individuals out of prisons and jails.
In 2000, Leifman started the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project, which aims to divert mentally ill people who might otherwise end up in the criminal justice system into treatment centers. He was chair of the Court's Mental Health Subcommittee for three years, from 2007 to 2010. In 2012, Leifman received the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation's Productive Lives Award. On Nov. 19, 2015, he became the first Floridian judge to receive the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence from Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts. As of 2014, he is a member of the board of the American Psychiatric Foundation. Leifman received his Bachelor of Science degree from American University and his J.D. from Florida State University.
Rounding out the panel is Thomas Insel, who last spoke at Chautauqua while he was director of the National Institute of Mental Health, during 2009’s week on “State of Mind.” A psychiatrist and neuroscientist, Insel has been a national leader in mental health research, policy and technology, and from 2002 to 2015, served as director of NIMH. More recently, he led the Mental Health Team at Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences) from 2015 to 2017. In 2017 he co-founded Mindstrong Health, a Silicon Valley start-up building tools for people with serious mental illness. In 2020, he co-founded Humanest Care, a therapeutic online community for recovery. Since May 2019, Insel has been a special adviser to California Gov. Gavin Newsom and chair of the board of the Steinberg Institute in Sacramento, California. A member of the National Academy of Medicine, who has received numerous national and international awards, Insel is a graduate of Boston University Medical School and the University of California, San Francisco.
About Chautauqua Institution: Chautauqua Institution is a community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state that comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. As a community, we celebrate, encourage and study the arts and treat them as integral to all of learning, and we convene the critical conversations of the day to advance understanding through civil dialogue. CHQ Assembly is the online expression of Chautauqua Institution's mission.