OverviewBJA administers the Mental Health Courts Program. This 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:
LegislationThe 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).
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BJA-Funded Justice and Mental Health Resources
Technical AssistanceThe Council of State Governments (CSG), coordinator of the Criminal Justice/Mental Health Consensus Project, will continue to provide technical assistance to BJA Mental Health Court Program grantees planning, implementing, evaluating, and sustaining their Mental Health Courts. In addition, they will provide similar assistance to nongrantee mental health courts and to other court-based initiatives to improve the response to people with mental illness in the criminal justice system. The focus of this year's technical assistance will be on helping court-based initiatives fully integrate their activities with other similar programs in the jurisdiction. To achieve this goal, CSG will make available the following forms of support:
For more information on technical assistance available under this program, visit the Consensus Project website.
GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Criminal Justice Mental Health Consensus Project
Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts
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Related InformationThe following provide additional information about or related to the Mental Health Courts Program:
Publications: Mental Health Courts: A Primer for Policymakers and Practitioners, (NCJ 224316) Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2008. This publication provides the field with a comprehensive overview and history of mental health courts and describes mental health courts' goals and processes, how they differ from drug courts, research findings about their effectiveness, and resources for jurisdictions interested in starting a program. Mental Health Courts: A Guide to Research-Informed Policy and Practice, (NCJ 228274), Bureau of Justice Assistance, September 2009. This guide helps policy makers and practitioners understand available research to better design, implement, and evaluate mental health courts. Criminal Justice Interventions for Offenders with Mental Illness: Evaluation of Mental Health Courts in Bronx and Brooklyn, New York, (NCJ 238265) National Institute of Justice-Sponsored. This report presents the findings and methodology of the evaluation of mental health courts in Bronx and Brooklyn (New York City).
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