Variations in Mental Health Courts: Challenges, Opportunities, and a Call for Caution

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Mental health courts have quickly proliferated in the United States and represent an attempt to expand legal leverage and enhanced treatment access to select persons with severe mental illness who are also involved in the criminal justice system. A national survey of mental health courts has begun to elucidate the procedural, clinical, and operational aspects of these courts and the defendants they adjudicate. A secondary analysis of survey data was performed to determine the similarities and differences among these courts. Results revealed large variability among existing mental health courts across multiple domains. The implications of this variability are discussed in terms benefits and limitations.

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