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Implementing the Essential Elements of a Mental Health Court: The Experiences of a Large Multijurisdictional Suburban County

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Abstract

Mental health courts developed in the USA in the late 1990s as one means to reduce the involvement of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system. In response to the growth in number of mental health courts, the Council of State Governments led an initiative to identify essential elements of mental health courts to guide their development and implementation. This paper applies these essential elements to a municipal mental health court in a multijurisdictional, suburban county. While this court met most essential elements, they faced a number of challenges. The primary ones included not being able to advance from hearing municipal cases only to state misdemeanor and felonies, not having the resources to expand program capacity for municipal cases, and participants not being able to always access needed mental health treatment, rehabilitation, and support services. The paper concludes with implications for behavioral health administrators and direct service staff in implementing the essential elements of mental health courts.

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Author information

Correspondence to Donald M. Linhorst PhD, MSW.

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Linhorst, D.M., Dirks-Linhorst, P.A., Stiffelman, S. et al. Implementing the Essential Elements of a Mental Health Court: The Experiences of a Large Multijurisdictional Suburban County. J Behav Health Serv Res 37, 427–442 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11414-009-9193-z

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Keywords

  • mental health courts
  • mentally ill offenders
  • essential elements
  • program planning
  • administration