SERIES: Are Mental Health Courts Effective and Successful?

Gavel statue for court

Mental health court is giving individuals with mental illness a second chance instead of incarceration, and it appears to have promising results.

What Are Mental Health Courts About?

Built on the successful drug court model, mental health court programs assist adult offenders with mental disabilities or illnesses through supervision and education. For example, the court can offer treatment and help for attendees to lead a successful life again with housing and other social service assistance.

A judge will oversee the program with assistance from a team of experts in the mental health field. They also involve prosecutors, defense attorneys and others who are a part of the case or who have mental health knowledge.

Who Can Attend Mental Health Court?

Mental health courts have been around since the early 90s with thousands of attendees and nearly 400 programs nationwide. Originally, those charged with misdemeanor offenses such as trespassing could only attend mental health court. Since then, the program’s doors are opening wider for those charged with some felonies such as robbery.

The goal for most mental health court programs is to provide courts the right resources to improve attendees’ lives through employment, support, treatment and even housing options. They want to identify the reason that contributes to criminal behavior. The judge and any other appropriate personnel also meet with the attendees on a consistent basis within a certain period to ensure they are on the right track.

The Proper Treatment and Tools

But is mental health court successful? It appears to be that way. One mental health court in Florida says that those who completed the program had a lower recidivism rate than those who did not. Another successful tool that attendees may need to use is an Ignition Interlock.

The Ignition Interlock is usually for DUI offenders, although every state’s law varies. When an Ignition Interlock is installed, the recidivism rate shows a substantial reduction between 50 to 90 percent.

With the right treatment and tools, anyone can get back to a better lifestyle, and that’s what some elements of the court, such as mental health programs and Ignition Interlock requirements, intend to do.

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