Ish Bhalla

Ish Bhalla, MD


MD  University of Toledo, Toledo, OH
Residency – Psychiatry, Yale University, New Haven, CT

Biography: Dr. Ish Bhalla is a forensic psychiatrist interested in psychiatric services, forensic psychiatry, and substance use disorders.  He has focused on improving upon the way complex systems work, as well as understanding the framework that guides psychiatric clinical decision-making. 

While in the NCSP, Dr. Bhalla published four manuscripts: “Treatment of Veterans with Psychiatric Diagnoses Nationally in the Veterans Health Administration: A Comparison of Service Delivery by Mental Health Specialists and Other Providers” (in Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research),“Polysubstance Use Among Veterans in Intensive PTSD Programs: Association with Symptoms and Outcomes Following Treatment” (in Journal of Dual Diagnosis), “Improving Emergency Department Flow for Patients Requiring Involuntary Psychiatric Hospitalization” (in Psychiatric Services) and “Simulate to Stimulate: Manikin-Based Simulation in the Psychiatry Clerkship” (in Academic Psychiatry).  He presented at the UCLA Department of Psychiatry Addiction Grand Rounds, and the NCSP annual meeting on “Involuntary Psychiatric Admissions: What Patient and Provider Factors Matter?” 

Throughout his fellowship, Dr. Bhalla worked on various research projects.  His main project, “Improving Emergency Department Flow for Patients Requiring Emergency Detention: The LA County Non-LPS Hospital Pilot Program” investigated a two-year pilot policy in Los Angeles allowing hospitals without County designation for involuntary commitment the ability to detain a patient in their emergency department using the statewide hold statute, 5150.  The primary aim was to understand attitudes, perceptions, and effects of the pilot in the greater context of the LA County mental health system.  His mentor team included Drs. Ken Wells (UCLA), Itai Danovitch (Cedars-Sinai), Teryl Nuckols (Cedars-Sinai), Gery Ryan (RAND), MarySue Heilemann (UCLA), Kip Thompson (Department of Mental Health), and Curley Bonds (Department of Mental Health). In addition, he worked on a project titled, “Cannabis Use in Elite Athletes,” in partnership with the Cannabis Research Initiative at UCLA.  The study included focus groups and surveys to understand attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs regarding cannabis among retired professional and collegiate athletes.  Lastly, Dr. Bhalla worked on a project with mentors at Cedars-Sinai, Keith Siegel, and Drs. Chaudhry and Danovitch, titled “Involuntary Psychiatric Detention from the Emergency Department of a Medical Center in Los Angeles.”  Dr. Bhalla also partnered with two NCSP Scholars, Drs. Etsemaye Agonafer and Tiffany Kenison, and mentor Dr. Arlene Brown (UCLA) on a project, “Whole Person Care: Community Stakeholder Analysis.”  The group presented preliminary results from its initial round of interviews to community stakeholders in Fall 2019. 

In addition to his projects, Dr. Bhalla completed a four-week policy elective in August 2019 at the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Oversight and Accountability Commission in Sacramento.  This experience allowed him to gain insight into the organizational design, policy, financial, political, and governance structures that drive the public mental health system in California.  He was able to help develop a strategy for how to best allocate $5 million in funds for county led innovations in reducing criminal justice involvement of people with mental illness.  Dr. Bhalla also participated in the first annual NCSP fellow group Sacramento policy endeavor in September 2019. The group met with state officials and staff to discuss health related bills, opportunities for collaboration, and issues such as the CA all-payers claim database and right to housing.  This experience also paved the way for future scholar policy electives.  

Dr. Bhalla is now an Associate Medical Director of Behavioral Health Value Transformation at Blue Cross North Carolina.