About the Curriculum
Approximately 300 mental health courts that have been launched since the 2000s simply replicated existing mental health courts or adapted other types of problem-solving courts due to lack of guidance for designing and implementing effective programs.
Recognizing the need for a central training resource, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), U.S. Department of Justice, commissioned The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center to design this interdisciplinary curriculum. The goal of this project is to make existing research and practices accessible while encouraging participants to ask effective questions for developing productive collaborations and programs that serve the needs of their communities. While the curriculum is presented as a comprehensive resource on how to plan and implement a mental health court, it is also designed to supplement existing trainings with new mental health court team members or to update procedures for teams already in operation. Additionally, the curriculum’s introductory lessons on criminal justice and behavioral health present information relevant to any type of collaboration between the two disciplines.
Developing a Mental Health Court includes material on a wide range of topics critical to implementing a mental health court. Content includes the following:
- Selecting a target population specific to your community
- A defendant’s legal rights
- Assessments for behavioral health and criminogenic needs
- Key principles in behavioral health and criminal justice, including material on diagnoses and treatment modalities
- Convening the right stakeholders
- Descriptions of practitioners in the mental health, substance use, and criminal justice system
- Developing and monitoring treatment plans, supervision conditions, and effective program policies
- Sustaining a mental health court, including data collection and evaluation
The curriculum’s two introductory lessons, Introduction to Behavioral Health and Introduction to Criminal Justice, contain the following components:
Presentations: Presentations use a mix of text, graphics, and multimedia clips to introduce key concepts for both lessons. Presentations are self-paced and can be viewed individually or as a group, and include interviews with over two dozen mental health court participants, practitioners, policymakers, and researchers from around the country.
Additional Resources: Both lessons feature links to relevant research, policy guides, program examples, and websites. These resources serve both to deepen users’ learning experience and connect them to the community of criminal justice and behavioral health practitioners and experts around the country.
Each of the curriculum’s eight instructional modules includes several common components:
Prep Work: These short readings introduce the concepts that will be explored in more detail throughout the module. They include program examples, excerpts from policy reports, and other relevant documents.
Presentations: Presentations use a mix of text, graphics, and multimedia clips to introduce key concepts for each module. Presentations are self-paced and can be viewed individually or as a group and include interviews with over two dozen mental health court participants, practitioners, policymakers, and researchers from around the country.
Quizzes: Each instructional module includes a short quiz on concepts included in the presentation.
Activities Guides: Guides can be used individually or in a group to apply the module’s concepts to practice. Some activities steer teams through the process of designing specific elements for their own programs, such as evaluating a target population, data collection plans, and approaches to facilitate participant success.*
Additional Resources: Links to relevant research, policy guides, program examples, and websites are provided for each instructional module. These resources serve both to deepen users’ learning experience and connect them to the community of mental health courts and associations around the country.
*The video case study of the Bonneville County (ID) Mental Health Court team featured in several modules is used as an example of how a real mental health court team performs. The Bonneville team is not intended as an ideal model, as their team meetings do not include defense attorneys. While this curriculum does not endorse excluding defense counsel’s involvement, it is a reality for many jurisdictions with limited resources and opens a discussion about the flexibility of the program’s implementation.
Supporting Materials for All Users
User Guide: All curriculum users should read this guide, which provides detailed instructions on how to use the curriculum. To learn more, click here.
Webinar: This webinar features a tour of the curriculum and a presentation by a pilot site coordinator on her state’s experience using it. To learn more, click here.
Supporting Materials for Coordinators
If you are responsible for arranging the use of the curriculum, this resource will help you customize the material for your jurisdiction’s needs, including identifying a facilitator, gathering participants, deciding on a completion date for the curriculum, and collecting data for informed group discussions.
View the PDF of Coordinating the Delivery of the Curriculum.
Supporting Materials for Facilitators
This resource will help those in charge of leading an interdisciplinary group use the curriculum’s varying components. Drawing on input from experienced trainers and program planners, this information provides advice on preparing for and leading the group as well as suggestions for creating an optimal learning environment.
View the PDF of Facilitating the Delivery of the Curriculum.