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Benton County Mental Health Court Implementation Project

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $550,000)

Benton County Specialty Courts (BCSC) (lead applicant) is proposing to implement the first Mental Health Court in the second most populated area of the state.  Benton County has a population of approximately 300,000 people with 29% being racial minorities and includes HPSA designated mental health shortage areas.  BCSC is collaborating with the Prosecuting Attorney’s office, Public Defenders Office, Housley Counseling and Alleviant Health to successfully fulfill project goals during the three-year project period.  The Mental Health Court Implementation Initiative (MHCII) will address multiple program-specific priority areas: (1) Promote effective strategies to expand the use of mental health courts and related services, (2) Propose interventions that have been shown by empirical evidence to reduce recidivism., (3) Use validated assessment tools to identify and prioritize individuals with a moderate or high risk of recidivism and a need for mental health treatment, and (4) Demonstrate and ensure funds are used for public health and public safety. 

MHCII will reduce critical gaps in Benton County’s diversion efforts by enrolling at least 20   justice-involved individuals with a mental health diagnosis at highest risk for recidivism for project participation.  The $550,000 requested will be used to support activities addressing the six components of MHCII: (1) a timely, streamlined, and coordinated screening, assessment, and referral process using validated instruments that assess mental health needs, offense information, and criminogenic risk; (2) mental health professionals working in conjunction with the Prosecuting Attorney’s office to triage cases and screen and assess potentially eligible individuals; (3) enhanced treatment services for persons who are eligible for mental health court, particularly for people without insurance; (4) enhanced case management for persons admitted to the mental health court; (5) collaboration with probation officers trained in mental health needs; and (6) cross-agency trainings for mental health and criminal justice partners.

BCSC will establish an inter-disciplinary advisory team from criminal justice, mental health, and substance use providers to build a trauma-informed collaborative network.  At the end of the planning year, BCSC will produce a detailed protocol for mental health court operations, a logic model, and a flow chart diagramming the screening, assessment, referral, and engagement process.  By project end, a final report on the project activities, clients’ mental health (e.g., treatment engagement), and criminal justice outcomes (e.g., re-arrests, convictions) will be disseminated in collaboration with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the project evaluation sub-awardee. Benton County has not previously received a JMHCP grant.

Date Created: September 26, 2023