Mental Health Courts:
A Primer for Policymakers and Practitioners

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Mental health courts have spread rapidly across the country in the few years since their emergence. In the late 1990s only a handful of such courts were in operation; as of 2007, there were more than 175 in both large and small jurisdictions.1

If this recent surge in popularity is any indicator, many more communities will consider developing a mental health court in the coming years. This guide is intended to provide an introductory overview of this approach for policymakers, practitioners, and advocates, and to link interested readers to additional resources.

The guide addresses a series of commonly asked questions about mental health courts:

• Why mental health courts?

• What is a mental health court?

• What types of individuals participate in mental health courts?

• What does a mental health court look like?

• What are the goals of mental health courts?

• How are mental health courts different from drug courts?

• Are there any mental health courts for juveniles?

• What does the research say about mental health courts?

• What issues should be considered when planning or designing a mental health court?

• What resources can help communities develop mental health courts?

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