Adult Mental Health Treatment Courts Database
The GAINS Center has developed a comprehensive database to identify the existing mental health courts in the United States. As a living document, the information included in the database will be updated as needed. It includes: the location of each mental health court, the year established, target participants (e.g. felony, misdemeanor, violent/non), approximate annual enrollments (or total enrollments), and necessary contact information. This database was completed in December 2012 and last updated in August 2013.
To notify the GAINS Center of new or updated information regarding Mental Health Treatment Courts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click on a state to view the existing U.S. mental health treatment courts in that state
MacArthur Foundation Mental Health Court Studies
The MacArthur Mental Health Court Study is a prospective, longitudinal, quasi-experimental four-site study that compares behavioral health and public safety outcomes for mental health court (MHC=447) participants with a “treatment as usual” (TAU=600) jail sample. It is the first study to include multiple sites and both an experimental (MHC) and comparison (TAU) sample. Subjects in both samples have serious mental illness, but the TAU sample did not enter the MHC. The 4 study sites are San Francisco County, CA, Santa Clara County, CA, Hennepin County, MN, and Marion County, IN., and represent a wide range of types of mental health courts in operation today in the U.S. Subjects were interviewed at baseline/study enrollment and again at six months (70%). Subjects provided informed consent allowing access to their mental health and criminal justice records. The study was approved by a number of federally sanctioned IRBs. This study on mental health courts provides extensive, rigorous, empirical data on the clients who participate in MHCs, the outcomes of the MHC programs, and the costs of MHCs.
Are Mental Health Courts Voluntary?
A major concern of advocates for justice-involved person with mental illness is that MHCs are not really voluntary as intended, proceeding with limited understanding on the part of participants. This study provides insight into this issue by examining perceptions of voluntariness, levels of knowingness, and legal competence among 200 of the newly-enrolled MHC clients in two courts. We find that most clients claim to have chosen to enroll in the MHC, but most don’t know it is voluntary or what the requirements are. A small number of the MHC participants were found to have impairments in legal competence.
Are Mental Health Courts Effective?
The two primary goals of MHCs are to reduce recidivism and increase engagement in community treatment. Do they accomplish these goals? What mechanisms do they use to gain compliance? A comparison of the MHC and TAU group was completed on a number of outcome variables including annualized arrests, jail days, amount or “dose” of treatment, time to community treatment, and use of incentives and sanctions.
Arrests and Jail Days. Findings strongly endorse the conclusion that MHCs lower post-enrollment recidivism, even after court supervision has ended. Consequently, MHC clients have significantly fewer post-enrollment jail days than do the comparison group. Participants charged with more serious crimes such as those involving a victim are less likely to be rearrested than those charged with less serious crimes such as drug offenses.
Community Treatment. One year after enrollment in MHC, participants have more intensive and therapeutic treatment episodes and access community treatment more quickly than do the comparison group. This strongly supports one of the major goals of MHCs. We find no relationship between the type of treatment intervention received (or not) and whether the MHC enrollees are arrested or in jail following MHC enrollment.
Incentives and Sanctions. Upon examining the use of incentives and sanctions in the four study MHCs, we find jail sanctions are used in three of four MHCs, and other sanctions are similarly employed across the four MHCs. Participants charged with “person crimes” are the least likely to receive any sanctions, including jail, whereas those charged with drug offenses are most often sanctioned.
Are Mental Health Courts Cost Effective?
The last phase of this study examines the treatment and criminal justice costs of MHCs in comparison to usual processing of justice-involved persons with mental illness. Our findings show that as a group, MHC participants are more costly both before and after MHC enrollment than the comparison group. However, when examining subgroups of participants – such as persons with co-occurring substance use/mental illness disorder – we find that higher costs are associated with high need clients, not with all MHC participants.
The resulting articles can be accessed here:
- The Impact of Treatment on the Public Safety Outcomes of Mental Health Court Participants
- A Multi-Site Study of the Use of Sanctions and Incentives in Mental Health Courts
- Effect of Mental Health Courts on Arrests and Jail Days
- Is Diversion Swift? Comparing Mental Health Court and Traditional Criminal Justice Processing
- The Use of Mental Health Court Appearances in Supervision
- Enrollment in Mental Health Courts: Voluntariness, Knowingness, and Adjudicative Competence
Developing a Mental Health Court: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum
Developing a Mental Health Court: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum is a free multimedia curriculum for individuals and teams seeking to start, maintain, or just learn about mental health courts and featuring online content and live group activities. It was created by the Council of State Governments Justice Center with the support of the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Organized into freestanding modules, the curriculum can easily be customized for users’ specific learning needs and time considerations. Its multimedia content includes interviews with a wide range of practitioners and other experts. A multi-part video follows a real mental health court team through fictional but common situations.
Developing a Mental Health Court is a crucial one-stop resource for judges, attorneys, mental health and substance abuse treatment providers and administrators, court managers, judicial educators, probation and law enforcement officers, and many others. It can be used by those interested in starting new mental health courts or retooling programs already in operation. Individuals joining existing programs will also find it helpful.
While the full curriculum is designed to take about 32 hours, groups can also use portions of the curriculum to complement their existing knowledge. Extensive resources are available on the curriculum website to help users make the most of the curriculum and to guide training coordinators and facilitators.
Developing a Mental Health Court is available at learning.csgjusticecenter.org.
If you are interested in CSG Justice Center assistance with using Developing a Mental Health Court, please contact CSG directly here.
To view a webinar introducing this new resource, click here.
Council of State Governments Justice Center webinar - "Mental Health Courts Research Roundup: Applying Research to Practice"
The GAINS Center's Lisa Callahan lead a Consensus Project webinar that provided an overview of emerging research about mental health courts and discussed implications for mental health court practitioners and policymakers. This webinar can be found here: http://pra.tw/jVR45.
Minnesota Public Radio News broadcast - "Study: Mental Health Courts Showing Positive Results"
GAINS Center director Hank Steadman spoke with Elizabeth Stawicki on "All Things Considered" about the results of a study conducted on mental health courts in Hennepin County, San Francisco, San Jose, and Indianapolis through the MacArthur Foundation. This broadcast can be found here: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/07/17/mental_health_courts.
SAMHSA webinar - "The Role of Co-Occurring Disorders in Outcomes in Mental Health Courts"
The GAINS Center's Lisa Callahan lead a SAMHSA webinar on co-occurring disorders and how they can affect participation in mental health courts. The transcript of this webinar can be found here: http://www.samhsa.gov/co-occurring/events/disorders-transcript.aspx. The corresponding slides can be viewed here: http://www.samhsa.gov/co-occurring/events/disorders/slide_01.html.
Justice for Vets - Veterans Treatment Court database
The Justice for Vets interactive map of Veterans Treatment Courts in the United States is available here: http://www.justiceforvets.org/veterans-treatment-court-locations.
Mental Health Court Association of Illinois
The Mental Health Court Association of Illinois provides annual training for mental health court practitioners, in addition to facilitating collaboration and the development of standard practices. Their website: http://www.illinois17th.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=316&Itemid=199%20.