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Mental Health Courts

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 and more intensive supervision by the court. Mental health courts link offenders who would ordinarily be prison-bound to long-term community-based treatment. They rely on thorough mental health assessments, individualized treatment plans and ongoing judicial monitoring to address both the mental health needs of offenders and public safety concerns of communities. With available community resources dwindling for people with serious mental illness (SMI), the courts were seeing more repeat offenders with untreated mental illness. Florida's jails and prisons are not designed, equipped, or funded to deal with SMI, so the use of the drug court model/problem-solving court 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 SMI in a mental health court is more effective, efficient, and less expensive than the remedies available through traditional justice system approaches.

As of August 2014, Florida has 26 mental health courts in operation.