Raising the Bar: Improving Evaluations of Mental Health Courts

Document Type


Publication Date



Mental Health Courts (MHCs) connect mentally ill offenders to community-based mental health treatment in an effort to reduce the endemic recidivism that often characterizes this population. Previous studies attempting to evaluate the effectiveness of MHCs in reducing recidivism have focused on the evaluation of individual MHCs. These studies have yielded inconsistent results, suggesting that distinct factors may influence the effectiveness of a given program. More recent studies have focused on multi-site or meta-analytic evaluations of MHCs, some of which have identified distinct characteristics of both participants and MHC programs that predict decreased recidivism. This study expanded upon recent studies by examining whether MHC graduation status or co-occurring substance use at program entry were associated with decreased recidivism. Data were requested from the Ramsey County Mental Health Court for both program participants (N = 58) and a matched comparison group of offenders (N = 40). Results demonstrated partial support of the Court’s effectiveness in decreasing pre- and post-program recidivism for participants. Graduates of the MHC experienced greater decreases in postprogram recidivism. In contrast to previous research, results also showed that participants with co-occurring substance use experienced greater decreases in post-program recidivism than participants without co-occurring substance use.

This document is currently not available here.