Research Report

A Statewide Examination of Mental Health Courts in Illinois: Program Operations and Characteristics

Published: October, 2015

Mental Health Courts (MHCs) are designed to serve the challenging, multifarious, and extensive service needs of people with serious mental illness (PSMI). The current report describes the findings of an evaluation of MHCs in Illinois. First implemented nearly 20 years ago, MHCs provide treatment and programming in comprehensive case management strategies, which draw on permanent partnerships with community-based agencies and a wealth of providers through a brokered network of interventions. Most employ a team approach to supervision with dedicated stakeholders (prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, mental health professionals), individualized treatment plans, voluntary and informed participation, specialized dockets and caseloads, and highly involved and proactive judges who preside over frequent court hearings and non-adversarial proceedings. Satisfactory program completion is defined by predetermined criteria. Clients are motivated to succeed by the threat of sanctions and the promise of rewards.