Mental Health Courts


The origin of mental health courts stemmed from situations similar to those preceding the development of drug courts – repeat offenders in need of treatment services. With community mental health resources dwindling, the courts were seeing more repeat offenders with untreated serious mental illness. Florida’s jails and prisons are not designed, equipped, or funded to deal with serious mental illness, so the creation of the mental health court model (a problem-solving court docket model) was a logical response.

Mental health courts generally share the following goals: to improve public safety by reducing criminal recidivism; to improve the quality of life of people with mental illnesses and increase their participation in effective treatment; and, to reduce court- and corrections-related costs through administrative efficiencies and often by providing an alternative to incarceration.

Monitoring and treating offenders with serious mental illness in a mental health court can be more effective, efficient, and less expensive than the remedies available through traditional justice system approaches.

Current Status

As of August 2019, Florida has 27 mental health courts in operation.

The components of mental health courts, from Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses: The Essential Elements of a Mental Health Court, Bureau of Justice Assistance:

  • Target population
  • Timely participant identification and linkage to services
  • Terms of participation
  • Informed choice
  • Treatment supports and services
  • Confidentiality
  • Court team
  • Monitoring adherence to court requirements
  • Sustainability

Publications and Resources

Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses: The Essential Elements of a Mental Health Court

This 2007 document, prepared by the Council of State Governments Justice Center for the Bureau of Justice Assistance describes ten essential elements of a mental health court, including planning, confidentiality, informed choice, court team, and treatment services.

Council of State Governments Justice Center

This site provides research-driven strategies and tools to increase public safety and strengthen communities.