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).
Mental Health Court Evaluation Released
The Urban Institute has released an evaluation, Criminal Justice Interventions for Offenders With Mental Illness, that shows that participants in two New York City mental health courts are significantly less likely to re-offend than similar offenders whose cases are handled in the traditional court system.
Statewide Law Enforcement/Mental Health Efforts Publication Released
The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center has released Statewide Law Enforcement/Mental Health Efforts: Strategies to Support and Sustain Local Initiatives. This BJA-supported report examines how states have developed structures and standards to make police encounters with people with mental illnesses safer for all involved and to produce better mental health and criminal justice system outcomes. The report offers a starting point for policymakers, practitioners, and others interested in planning or enhancing a statewide initiative that will support such local-level specialized policing responses as crisis intervention and law enforcement/mental health co-response teams. Read the press release.
Mental Health Court Curriculum Now Available
With BJA support, the Council of State Governments Justice Center has launched Developing a Mental Health Court: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum, a free, online multimedia resource with the information teams need to plan, implement, sustain, or simply learn about mental health courts based on research and best practices from the field.
New Release: Improving Outcomes for People with Mental Illnesses
The Council of State Governments Justice Center, with support from BJA, has released Improving Outcomes for People with Mental Illnesses Involved with New York City’s Criminal Court and Correction Systems.
Learn About Developing a Mental Health Court
"Developing a Mental Health Court: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum," developed by the Council of State Governments Justice Center with support from BJA, is a free multimedia curriculum with the information teams need to plan, implement, sustain, or simply learn about mental health courts based on research and best practices from the field. It is a crucial one-stop resource for judges, behavioral health treatment providers, court managers, judicial educators, probation officers, and many others.
Funding Webinars – Participate and Access Materials
To assist potential applicants interested in applying for FY 2019 funding opportunities, BJA has hosted several solicitation-specific webinars as well as Grant Applicant Education Series webinars. Visit the BJA Funding Webinars page to learn about upcoming webinars and to access presentation files for and YouTube links to watch previously held webinars.
Related InformationThe following provide additional information about or related to the Mental Health Courts Program:
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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
More BJA Publications
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Developing a Mental Health Court
With support from BJA, the Council of State Governments Justice Center developed and released "Developing a Mental Health Court: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum," a free online curriculum to assist jurisdictions interested in starting new mental health courts, as well as to help further the work of the 300 or so jurisdictions that have launched mental health courts since the early 2000s.
Madison, WI Law Enforcement–Mental Health Learning Site
Read about the Madison (WI) Police Department’s Mental Health Liaison Program—one of six Law Enforcement–Mental Health Learning Sites selected by the Council of State Governments Justice Center and BJA—which is a successful example of how community partners can collaborate to provide police services to people with mental illnesses. Learn more about the learning sites.
Mental Health Courts Program FY 2006 Call for Concept PapersApplication Deadline: 02/02/2006, 07:59 PMThis call for concept papers from state, local, or tribal governments, including courts, is to fund one additional mental health court demonstration project that reflects innovative and collaborative efforts for systemwide court improvements for offenders with mental disabilities or illnesses.Solicitation
810 Seventh Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20531
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