Frequently Asked Questions

Developing a Mental Health Court: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum is a free online multimedia curriculum for individuals and teams seeking to start, maintain, or just learn about mental health courts.
What is Developing a Mental Health Court: An Interdisciplinary Curriculum?

Developing a Mental Health Court is a free, flexible series of engaging and comprehensive presentations and accompanying activities for interdisciplinary groups who want to start, improve, or simply learn more about mental health courts. This curriculum is available online in freestanding modules to allow users to customize their experience based on learning needs and available time. It includes interviews with a wide range of professionals with experience in mental health courts, including judges, attorneys, court managers, behavioral health providers, corrections officers, program graduates, peer specialists, researchers, case managers, and more. It also features videos of a real mental health court team engaging in simulated team meetings and court appearances.

I have a suggestion to improve the curriculum. Are you interested in hearing it?

Yes—we are very interested in receiving feedback on the curriculum and hope everyone will complete our online survey. Your input will help us improve the curriculum and make it more responsive to the needs of practitioners, policymakers, and others like you. It will also help us keep the curriculum accurate, relevant, and up to date.

What do I do if I’m having problems accessing the curriculum?

Users experiencing any technical problems with the curriculum may contact us.

Who is the curriculum for?

Anyone interested in learning about or starting mental health courts will find the curriculum useful, including:

  • Judges
  • Prosecutors and defense attorneys
  • Behavioral health (mental health and substance use) providers and administrators
  • Court managers and judicial educators
  • Probation, pretrial services, and law enforcement officers
  • Case managers

The curriculum also includes introductory lessons on criminal justice and behavioral health for those interested in general cross-training materials.

How do I use the curriculum?

The curriculum is designed for use by teams of individuals who are or would be stakeholders in existing or contemplated mental health courts, although it can certainly be used by other interested individuals as well, such as a staff member new to a mental health court. It includes a series of online presentations and accompanying quizzes, individual and group activities, and additional resources for further learning. It is structured so that local teams can use it either on their own or under the direction of a state-level trainer or technical assistance provider. The curriculum is extremely flexible, and teams can complete the entire curriculum or use specific modules to complement their existing knowledge. For more information on how to use the curriculum, see Using the Curriculum; this section includes guidance for individual users, as well as helpful materials for training coordinators and facilitators. You can also view a webinar for a tour of the curriculum and a presentation by a pilot site coordinator on her state’s experience using it.

How much does the curriculum cost?

The curriculum and most of the suggested additional resources are available entirely free of charge.

How long does the curriculum take?

The entire curriculum—including the presentations for the two introductory lessons and the prep work, presentations, activities, and quizzes for the eight instructional modules—is designed to take approximately 32 hours to complete. However, individual group members can complete a significant portion of the curriculum, such as completing the prep work, viewing the presentations, and taking the quizzes, on their own. For ideas for delivery schedules, see the Handbook for Facilitators.

It is important to note that the curriculum has flexible components that can be delivered in different ways to meet the needs of diverse users, and groups may not need or want to complete the full curriculum. For example, an existing mental health court rethinking its target population may simply want to complete Module 4: Target Population. A group considering starting a mental health court may complete part of the curriculum, decide that a mental health court is not appropriate for their jurisdiction, and decide to focus only on specific issues in subsequent modules.

Who should be included in a team using the curriculum?

For groups interested in creating a new mental health court program, it’s important to make sure all key stakeholders who will be involved in developing, implementing, and running your community’s mental health court participate in the curriculum. Groups involved with an existing mental health court should include a representative of every group that has a stake in the topics they will be covering. In most cases, that will probably be the full group listed below.

A complete new mental health court team using Developing a Mental Health Court will vary among communities, but will likely include at least one of each of the following individuals:

  • Judge
  • Corrections official
  • Prosecutor
  • Defense attorney
  • Court coordinator
  • Case manager
  • Behavioral health clinician
  • Probation official
  • Consumer
  • Family member of a consumer

The curriculum was designed with small groups of stakeholders from individual jurisdictions in mind and has only been piloted in such settings (with the largest group composed of approximately 30 individuals from two separate jurisdictions). However, larger groups may also make use of the curriculum or parts of the curriculum. See the Handbook for Facilitators for more on convening the group using the curriculum.

I am in charge of coordinating and/or facilitating the use of the curriculum in my jurisdiction. Is there anything I can read that will guide me through that process?

Those who are interested in organizing the use of the curriculum or parts of the curriculum by a group should see the Handbook for Facilitators, which includes information on coordinating trainings, guidance on selecting a person to facilitate trainings, suggestions for addressing important logistical concerns, and tips for creating an optimal learning environment.

Do I need to complete the modules in order?

For groups completing the entire curriculum, it is best to proceed through the modules in order, starting with the two introductory lessons. View the module presentations sequentially, as the content in each presentation builds on that of prior presentations. Each presentation is also self-contained and can be viewed on its own. Some groups—such as those with existing mental health courts—may wish to complete only portions of the curriculum that relate to their specific interests.

Who created and funded the curriculum?

The curriculum was developed by the CSG Justice Center with the support of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), in partnership with the National Center for State Courts, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation, the National Judicial College, and the Center for Court Innovation. The curriculum also benefited from the guidance of a steering committee composed of policymakers, practitioners, and experts from programs and organizations around the country, including the American Probation and Parole Association, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Justice Management Institute, the National Drug Court Institute, and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association.

How was the curriculum developed?

Content experts and practitioners on the curriculum’s steering committee worked with CSG Justice Center staff and experts in adult education to develop the content outline and ensure that available resources were presented accessibly in a style likely to facilitate learning by diverse curriculum users. Modules were reviewed by mental health court practitioners and content experts, and the curriculum includes more than 20 interviews with practitioners, policymakers, and researchers, bringing perspectives on mental health court design and operation from more than 20 states. State-level judicial educators and problem-solving court coordinators also participated in the development of materials for facilitators. In 2012, two states and two counties representing diverse regions pilot-tested the curriculum with groups interested in starting new or improving existing mental health courts to provide additional input on usability and learning.

What does the curriculum cover?

Developing a Mental Health Court provides an in-depth introduction to the mental health court model based on available research and the experiences of practitioners from around the country. The curriculum:

  • Introduces mental health courts in the context of the criminal justice and behavioral health systems
  • Poses questions to consider in determining whether starting a mental health court is an effective use of a jurisdiction’s resources
  • Describes best practices for designing a program, including how to identify the population the program will serve and set the terms of program participation
  • Provides detailed guidance on developing and monitoring individualized treatment and supervision plans
  • Explains how to maintain a program, including managing public expectations and sustaining funding

The chart below provides detailed highlights of the contents of the curriculum.

ModuleLearning Objectives
Introduction to Behavioral Health1. Describe the components of the mental health and substance use systems
2. Understand the symptoms and basic terminology of mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders (CODs)
3. Describe the principles of effective treatment for mental illnesses and CODs
Introduction to Criminal Justice1. Identify the common stakeholders in the criminal justice system
2. Describe how a criminal case proceeds through a typical criminal justice system
3. Understand certain legal concepts, types of cases, and principles for recidivism reduction
Module 1: Understanding Mental Health Courts1. Articulate why a community may decide to start a mental health court
2. Describe the mental health court model and the state of research on program outcomes
3. Identify program models other than mental health courts that have been shown to improve outcomes for individuals with mental illnesses involved in the criminal justice system
Module 2: Your Community, Your Mental Health Court1. Identify local- and state-level stakeholders who should help plan your mental health court
2. Articulate common mental health court goals and ways of measuring these goals
3. Understand how to build on local resources and priorities to shape your program
Module 3: The Mental Health Court Team1. Describe the roles and responsibilities of the core mental health court team members
2. Identify ethical issues that mental health courts present for yourself and other team members
3. Develop approaches for handling conflict within your mental health court team
Module 4: Target Population1. Understand the current state of research on who benefits from mental health courts
2. Understand how local conditions can shape criminal justice and clinical eligibility criteria
3. Analyze factors for and against requiring a plea for program participation
Module 5: Designing Policies and Procedures for Program Participation1. Understand how a mental health court program can be designed to protect legal rights
2. Describe how to design a referral process for your program
3. Identify considerations for determining the duration of an individual’s participation
Module 6: Case Planning1. Understand what a case plan and its main components are
2. Describe the relationship between the treatment plan and supervision conditions
3. Understand how to develop treatment plans and supervision conditions based on comprehensive assessments and available supports
Module 7: Facilitating the Success of Mental Health Court Participants1. Articulate principles that research shows are effective in modifying behavior
2. Describe how these principles inform your role on the mental health court team
3. Develop policies and procedures that apply these principles to your mental health court
Module 8: Launching and Sustaining Your Program1. Identify common strategies for funding your program at the outset
2. Describe the role of data collection and evaluation in managing and sustaining your program
3. Describe strategies for engaging your advisory group and team members in continuously improving the program