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Guide to Mental Health Court Design and Implementation

NCJ Number
Alan Henry; Daniel Souweine; Kelly Dedel Johnson
Date Published
May 2005
114 pages
This guide provides best practices for communities interested in implementing a mental health court.
The overwhelming numbers of defendants with mental illnesses, many of whom appear repeatedly before the court, necessitated the development of new and creative solutions to address this problem. Mental health courts are quickly becoming the most popular strategy across the country to address the overrepresentation of people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. The development of mental health courts in the last 5 years has increased from only a handful of such courts in the late 1990s, to more than 100 nationwide. The available research and the experience of jurisdictions across the country suggest that mental health courts shows great promise. More research is needed to better understand mental health court processes, to identify the specific categories of defendants who benefit most from mental health court intervention, and to isolate the most effective components of the mental health court model. This guide builds on a substantial body of work by providing a roadmap, based largely on the experience of existing mental health courts, for those interested in establishing a mental health court in their jurisdiction. The guide is organized according to the three basic steps that should be followed by any community considering the establishment of a mental health court: understanding the mental health court concept, determining whether a mental health court is appropriate, and considering elements of mental health court design and implementation. Appendices, references

Date Published: May 1, 2005