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Model Programs Guide Literature Review: Mental Health Court

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2010
5 pages
Based on a literature review, this paper discusses the theoretical foundation of juvenile mental health courts, the scope of the problem such courts address, the features of juvenile mental health courts, evaluation evidence of their effectiveness, and issues and concerns remaining to be addressed by mental health courts.
Similar to juvenile drug courts, juvenile mental health courts address a particular behavioral problem, i.e., harmful behaviors stemming from mental disorders that require treatment. Participation in such courts instead of traditional ;juvenile court processing is voluntary. Mental health courts are non-adversarial and focus on mental health treatment services under judicial monitoring that rewards treatment progress and sanctions failure to comply with treatment requirements. Juvenile participants are managed by a multidisciplinary team that develops and monitors treatment plans and compliance. Team members include district attorneys, public defenders, mental health providers, and case managers (probation officers). A literature review of surveys of eligibility criteria for juvenile mental health courts found that half of the courts included in the survey accepted only youth with serious mental health illnesses; other courts accepted youth with any identified mental health issue. Regarding evidence of the effectiveness of mental health courts, few evaluation studies have been conducted. The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice is currently evaluating the Crossroad Program, a juvenile mental health court in Akron, Ohio. Overall, the findings indicate reductions in the frequency of serious, violent, and other delinquent behaviors among youth who completed the program. Future research should address the shortcomings of this study and explore additional outcomes, such as rate of compliance with treatment plans or whether the program was implemented as designed. 13 references

Date Published: October 1, 2010