Module 2: Your Community, Your Mental Health Court

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.

Module 2: Your Community, Your Mental Health Court identifies ways to tailor your mental health court program to your community’s unique needs and resources.

Learning Objectives

  1. Identify local- and state-level stakeholders who can help plan your mental health court.
  2. Articulate common mental health court goals and ways to measure these goals.
  3. Understand how to build on local resources and priorities to shape your program.

Prep Work

Provides background reading to introduce you to the topics discussed in this module. All resources are available for free online. You will need access to a computer to complete this step.
Estimated completion time: 30 minutes


Developing a Mental Health Court: Module 2: Your Community, Your Mental Health Court
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.


Reinforces your knowledge of the concepts you learned in the module. You will need access to a computer to complete this step. Estimated completion time: 10 minutes


2.1. Which of the following groups of stakeholders do you think will face the most obstacles in starting a mental health court?

   Sheriff, judge, and community psychiatrist

2.2. Sheriff Wall of Water County (a hypothetical county planning a mental health court) is interested in participating in the planning process for the new mental health court but has many demands on his time. How can the planners involve him in the process? Check all that apply.

   Write up regular meeting minutes and send highlighted key decision points to Sheriff Wall

2.3. Which of the following considerations are important for collecting baseline data to measure recidivism among individuals with mental illnesses? Check all that apply.


2.4. True or False: A mental health court should begin accepting participants within one month of beginning the planning process.


2.5. Which of the following are common challenges for identifying and linking mental health court participants to appropriate treatment and supports?



2.1  B. While many different combinations of stakeholders have successfully started mental health courts around the country, groups that do not include stakeholders from both the criminal justice system and the behavioral health system will generally face additional obstacles in starting a mental health court.

2.2 A, B, C, and D. Planners can use a variety of strategies to engage high-level stakeholders so that these busy individuals can weigh in on appropriate strategic decisions and provide support where needed.

2.3 A, B, C, and D. There are numerous ways to define “recidivism,” which can measure re-arrests, re-incarcerations, or re-convictions (a). Jail bookings (c) are a common measure of recidivism. To do any sort of baseline measurement, the group to be measured must be clearly defined, which is why (b) and (d) are necessary. While (e) would provide interesting information about how much the target group is accessing behavioral health services, it is not necessary to calculate recidivism.

2.4 False. A good planning process can take six to nine months to identify all stakeholders, map all community needs, and build consensus about the program’s goals. It is common for programs to start small with a couple of participants to try out and then refine policies and procedures. For more discussion on starting with a pilot program, see Module 8: Program Management.

2.5 D. A careful and complete inventory of available services and supports needs to be conducted during the planning phase and regularly revisited once the program is operational. Program participants’ success and the success of the mental health court largely depend on the capacity to link participants with appropriate services and supports as soon as they are enrolled in the program.

Activities Guide

Gives you an opportunity to apply the knowledge you acquired from this module’s Prep Work and Presentation and develop resources and processes tailored to your program. You will view videos of an actual court team, discuss issues with your teammates, complete worksheets, and more. Some of the Activities will be completed on your own and others as a group. You may want to print the Activities Guide, although you will also need access to a computer (with Adobe Flash Player installed) to view the accompanying videos. Estimated completion time: 2-3 hours

These Activities are designed to prompt discussion among your team about how you will interact as a single unit. Each Activity contains questions and worksheets to complete. You will complete some Activities on your own and others as a group. One of the Activities in this module requires that you watch short video segments of a mental health court team in action. At the end of the Activities, you will be asked to list three main issues that the Activities have raised for your own program planning.

Download the Activities Guide

Additional Resources

Policy and Practice Guides

Alex M. Blandford and Fred C. Osher, A Checklist for Implementing Evidence-Based Practices and Programs (EBPs) for Justice-Involved Adults with Behavioral Health Disorders (Delmar, NY: SAMHSA’s GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation, 2012). This resource contains an easy-to-use checklist to help behavioral health agencies assess their utilization of evidence-based practices and programs (EBPs) associated with positive outcomes for individuals with behavioral health disorders who are involved in the criminal justice system.
Available here

The Council of State Governments Justice Center, Mental Health Courts: A Primer for Policymakers and Practitioners (New York: The Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2008). See esp. page 8, “What Are the Goals of Mental Health Courts?” This primer identifies 10 key components found in successful initiatives to improve outcomes for people with mental illnesses under probation supervision. Page 8 highlights the specific goals of mental health courts.
Available here

Office of Rural Health Policy, Health Resources and Services Administration, Rural Behavioral Health Programs and Promising Practices (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011). This document outlines the results of a survey of behavioral health service delivery in rural U.S. communities and offers recommendations to enhance effectiveness by adapting EBPs to circumstances that behavioral health providers face in rural areas.
Available here

Fred Osher et al., Adults with Behavioral Health Needs under Correctional Supervision: A Shared Framework for Reducing Recidivism and Promoting Recovery (New York: The Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2012). This publication introduces criminal justice and behavioral health practitioners to an evidence-based framework for prioritizing scarce resources based on assessments of individuals’ risk of committing a future crime and their treatment and support needs.
Available here

Seth J. Prins and Fred C. Osher, Improving Responses to People with Mental Illnesses: The Essential Elements of Specialized Probation Initiatives (New York: The Council of State Governments, 2009). See esp. Element 1, “Collaborative Planning and Administration.” Element 1 of this guide highlights the mental health court collaborative planning process and provides mental health court practitioners with recommendations and suggestions about the types of community agencies that should be involved in the planning and implementation of a mental health court.
Available here

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, A Guide to SAMHSA’s Strategic Prevention Framework (Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2019). SAMHSA developed this framework to help prevention planners address the behavioral health problems facing their states and communities.
Available here

Program Examples

The Council of State Governments Justice Center, A Guide to Mental Health Court Design and Implementation (New York: The Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2008). See esp. Step III, Section Eight, “The Mental Health Court Team.” Page 65 of this guide provides examples of mental health courts in rural jurisdictions that have tailored their programs to the needs and resources of their communities.
Available here

Kelly O’Keefe, The Brooklyn Mental Health Court Evaluation: Planning, Implementation, Courtroom Dynamics, and Participant Outcomes (New York: Center for Court Innovation, 2006). This publication details the evaluation by the Center for Court Innovation (CCI) of the Brooklyn Mental Health Court, a joint project of CCI, the New York State Unified Court System, and the New York State Office of Mental Health.
Available here

John Zottola et al., “Fostering Criminal Justice/Mental Health Collaboration: Building Lasting Partnerships,” Criminal Justice/Mental Health Consensus Project Webinar, July 19, 2012. This webinar presentation highlights four mental health courts and the efforts they have made to build and maintain successful partnerships with community agencies and organizations.
Available here