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Elements of Mental Health Courts

Ten Key Elements of Mental Health Courts

Element One: Planning And Administration
A broad-based group of stakeholders representing the criminal justice, mental health, substance abuse treatment and related systems and the community guides the planning and administration of the court.
Element Two: Target Population
Eligibility criteria address public safety and consider a community's treatment capacity, in addition to the availability of alternatives to pretrial detention for defendants with mental illnesses.  Eligibility criteria also take into account the relationship between mental illness and a defendant's offenses, while allowing the individual circumstances of each case to be considered.
Element Three: Timely Participant Identification And Linkage to Services
Participants are identified, referred, and accepted into mental health courts, and then linked to community-based service providers as quickly as possible.
Element Four: Terms Of Participation
Terms of participation are clear, promote public safety, facilitate the defendant's engagement in treatment, are individualized to correspond to the level of risk that the defendant presents to the community, and provide for positive legal outcomes for those individuals who successfully complete the program.
Element Five: Informed Choice
Defendants fully understand the program requirements before agreeing to participant in a mental health court.  They are provided legal counsel to inform this decision and subsequent decisions about program involvement.  Procedures exist in the mental health court to address, in a timely fashion, concerns about a defendant's competency whenever they arise.
Element Six: Treatment Supports And Services
Mental health courts connect participants to comprehensive and individualized treatment supports and services in the community.  They strive to use- and increase the availability of- treatment and services that are evidence-based.
Element Seven:  Confidentiality
Health and legal information should be shared in a way that protects potential participants' confidentiality rights as mental health consumers and their constitutional rights as defendants.  Information gathered as part of the participants' court-ordered treatment program or services should be safeguarded in the event that participants are returned to traditional court processing.
Element Eight: Court Team
A team of criminal justice and mental health staff and service and treatment providers receives special, ongoing training and helps mental health court participants achieve treatment and criminal justice goals by regularly reviewing and revising the court process.
Element Nine: Monitoring Adherence To Court Requirements
Criminal justice and mental health staff collaboratively monitor participants' adherence to court conditions, offer individualized graduated incentives and sanctions, and modify treatment as necessary to promote public safety and participants' recovery.
Element Ten: Sustainability
Data are collected and analyzed to demonstrate the impact of the mental health court, its performance is assessed periodically (and procedures are modified accordingly), court processes are institutionalized, and support for the court in the community is cultivated and expanded.
For additional information regarding the Key Elements of Mental Health Court, please click here: MHC_Essential_Elements.pdf
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