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.
As of March 2019, Florida has 25 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
- Court team
- Monitoring adherence to court requirements
Publications and Resources
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.
This site provides research-driven strategies and tools to increase public safety and strengthen communities.
Data from 2017 show that Florida’s mental health courts admitted 929 participants and graduated 533.
Florida Supreme Court Governance Groups
The Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in the Courts addresses the needs of individuals with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders who become involved in the justice system. Click here to learn more about the work of the Task Force.