New York City

Mental health courts are specialized court dockets for certain defendants with mental illnesses that substitute a problem-solving model for traditional criminal court processing.

A mental health court (MHC) is a court-based program that brings together members of criminal justice and behavioral health systems, among others, to work with people with mental illnesses who face criminal charges. MHCs are just one type of mental health diversion program (MHDP). MHDPs exist in many different forms throughout the criminal justice system and generally provide alternatives to typical criminal justice procedures in an effort to improve outcomes for people with mental health issues. The number of MHCs and MHDPs in the U.S. has grown exponentially in the past two decades. State and local officials who have recently launched, or are considering whether to launch, such programs in their jurisdictions often seek out more experienced MHCs or MHDPs for guidance and advice.

To facilitate peer-to-peer assistance among jurisdictions that have established or are planning to establish MHCs or MHDPs, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), through its technical assistance provider, The Council of State Governments Justice Center, has designated four jurisdictions as MHC “learning sites.” Located across the country, these MHC Learning Sites represent a diverse cross-section of perspectives and program examples. MHC Learning Sites host in-person visits to their courts and respond to telephone and email inquiries from the field.

This snapshot provides details on the New York City’s Education & Assistance Corporation Mental Health Diversion Program—how it functions, whom it serves, and what makes it unique.