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Mental Health Courts Program

Overview

The Mental Health Courts Program funds projects that seek to mobilize communities to implement innovative, collaborative efforts that bring systemwide improvements to the way the needs of adult offenders with mental disabilities or illnesses are addressed.

Mental health courts are a recent phenomenon and require collaboration and consideration from practitioners in both the criminal justice and mental health fields. Mental health courts typically involve judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and other court personnel who have expressed an interest in or possess particular mental health expertise. The courts generally deal with nonviolent offenders who have been diagnosed with a mental illness or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders. Today, more than 150 of these courts exist, and more are being planned.

The goal of BJA's Mental Health Court grant program is to decrease the frequency of clients' contacts with the criminal justice system by providing courts with resources to improve clients' social functioning and link them to employment, housing, treatment, and support services.

BJA funds projects that emphasize:

  • Continuing judicial supervision—including periodic review—over preliminarily qualified offenders with mental illness, mental retardation, or co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse disorders who are charged with misdemeanors and/or nonviolent offenses.
  • The coordinated delivery of services, which includes:
    • Specialized training of criminal justice personnel to identify and address the unique needs of offenders who are mentally ill or intellectually disabled.
    • Voluntary outpatient or inpatient mental health treatment, in the least restrictive manner appropriate as determined by the court, that carries with it the possibility of dismissal of charges or reduced sentencing on successful completion of treatment.
    • Centralized case management involving the consolidation of cases that involve mentally ill or mentally disabled defendants (including probation violations) and the coordination of all mental health treatment plans and social services, including life skills training, placement, health care, and relapse prevention for each participant who requires such services.
    • Continuing supervision of treatment plan compliance for a term not to exceed the maximum allowable sentence or probation for the charged or relevant offense and, to the extent practicable, continuity of psychiatric care at the end of the supervised period.

Legislation

The Mental Health Courts Program was created by "America's Law Enforcement and Mental Health Project" (Public Law 106-515). Support also comes through the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2004 (MIOTCRA) (Public Law 108-414).
Date Created: February 19, 2012