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Mental Health Courts

Background

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 use of the drug 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.

Current Status

As of December 2016, Florida has 28 mental health courts in operating in 16 circuits.

Publications and Resources

Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses: The Essential Elements of a Mental Health Court

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.

Data

No data is available at this time.

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. The task force is charged with developing practice standards for Florida’s mental health courts.