What is the role of mental health courts in helping individuals with serious mental illness who interface with the criminal justice system?

Mental health courts were developed to help criminal defendants who have a mental illness that is a significant contributing factor to their arrest. These diversion programs are characterized by three key components. Screening involves the identification of defendants who are suspected of having a mental illness. Assessment involves the evaluation of identified defendants by a mental health professional. The last component involves court diversion staff negotiating with prosecutors, defense attorneys, the courts and community-based mental health providers to work towards having charges reduced or waived. Evidence suggests that mental health courts can help to reduce recidivism rates.

Loong D et al. The Effectiveness of Mental Health Courts in Reducing Recidivism and Police Contact: A Systematic Review.Community Ment Health J. 2019 Oct;55(7):1073-1098.

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