Child abuse and maltreatment
How The Mental Health Courts came into Place: Problem-solving courts began in the 1990s to accommodate offenders with specific needs and problems that were not or could not be adequately addressed in traditional courts. Problem-solving courts seek to promote outcomes that will benefit not only the offender, but the victim and society as well. The problem-solving courts were developed as an innovative response to deal with offenders’ problems, including drug abuse, mental illness, and domestic violence.
Although most problem solving court models are relatively new, early results from studies show that these types of courts are having a positive impact on the lives of offenders and victims and in some instances are preventing the jails from being overcrowding while saving jail and prison costs. The Process: In some cases participation in a mental health court is voluntary. The defendant must consent to participation before being placed in the program and in other cases the defendant must meet certain criteria.
They must go through in Screening and Assessment process. The use of screening and assessment tools is to identify appropriate individuals for the court in common. The selection of clients for mental health courts is characterized in three stages: initial screening; assessment screening, and evaluation screening. Initial screening originates with one of the two ? ltering agents: the district attorney or the mental health court coordinator/supervisor/director. The outcome of this process is the sample of clients enrolled in a mental health court.
Stage 1, referred to as initial eligibility screening, captures the process by which defendants with mental illnesses are identi? ed as potential clients for the court. This centralizing stage was found to have one of the two ‘‘? ltering’’ agents. As I stated before they are the district attorney and the mental health court team coordinator/ director/supervisor. Referrals for initial screening come from a variety of sources including the mental health court introduce another potential source of selection variation.
Formal criteria for eligibility vary among mental health courts by the types of charges and criminal histories. Speaking in general, mental health courts only allow cases with non-violent and misdemeanor charges. Half of the mental health courts in considered cases with felony convictions. However, ? ltering agents were found to vary in their willingness to bend the interpretation of the charges to ? t the case for the mental health court: if, for example, the district attorney had a weak case against the defendant, then mental illness played a central role in the violent criminal behavior, or the victim was a family member.
In addition, while many ? ltering agents required the victim’s assent before referring cases to the mental health court, there was considerable variation in the extent to which ? ltering agents worked with the victims to gain their buy-in. Some other informal and individual ? ltering screens used by these agents included the potential client’s prior experience with the mental health court, support from other referral sources, and the nature and history of the client’s problems in the community and service use history.
Stage 2, Potential clients who meet the requirements of Stage 1 initial eligibility are then referred for a more in-depth review and screening to Stage 2 in the screening process, conducted by the mental health court team. Stage 2 assessment eligibility screening focuses principally on determination and assessment of behavioral health problems and related criminal history issues. Court Six is an exception. This court conducts assessment eligibility screening in Stage 1, focusing only on criminal history issues in Stage 2. All mental health courts have eligibility criteria related to mental disorder.
Some courts de? ned their clinical criteria broadly—any Axis I disorder as well as dementia, organic brain damage or developmental disabilities, and chronic alcoholism with psychosis, while others used narrow criteria inclusive only of schizophrenia, schizophrenia disorder, or bipolar disorder with an additional requirement of being ‘‘disengaged from community services’’. Documentation of mental disorder also varied among courts. Some courts required a psychiatric evaluation or mental health assessment, whereas others accepted a diagnosis obtained from case record review.
Even when potential clients met the formal diagnostic criteria, other clinical factors were considered. Clinical screening staff reported considering other types of co-occurring behavioral health problems, such as personality disorder. Stage 3, is the ? nal step in the selection process and pertains to the decisions of the mental health court judge and the client centralizing ‘‘? ltering’’ agents—district attorney and mental health court team coordinator/director/supervisor; and multiple referral sources, mental health teams, courts, police officers, defense attorneys, probation officers, jail staff, family and other agents for persons with mental illness. The order of the screening stages was consistent across the six sample mental health courts, although the content of the screening varied depending on the type of ? ltering agent; prosecutor ? ltering agents focused narrowly on criminal screening in Stage 1 initial eligibility screening, while mental health court ? ltering agents may focus on clinical screening.
There were also some generalized tendencies, with mental health courts with more support from the legal community to rely more on referrals from defense attorneys, whereas courts with less support relied more on the pro-activity of the mental health court team to identify cases from a wider group of referral sources while the sampled mental health courts ? ltered cases through three eligibility stages, there was considerable variation within these three stages, making each court somewhat unique in the pro? le of clients selected for participation. How the Courts help: The court deals with the crime in a way that addresses the person’s mental health needs.
The mental disability is the focus rather than criminal behavior. The key objective of a mental health court is to either prevent the jailing of offenders with mental illness by diverting them to appropriate community services or to significantly reduce time spent incarcerated. Judges take a more hands-on approach to addressing problems and changing behaviors of defendants Problem-solving courts work with external parties to achieve certain goals while developing partnerships with mental health providers.