Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Colin Hollidge


Social Work


Mental health court programs have proliferated in the United States in the past few decades in response to the growth of persons with mental illness involved in the criminal justice system. Research has previously been conducted on the impact of these programs, but few studies have been done to identify themes among the research as a whole in regard to their impact on three main goals: reducing recidivism, improving mental health and connecting participants to treatment and services. This systematic review was designed to explore the question: what is the impact of mental health court programs on recidivism, connection to treatment services, and clinical outcomes for participants? Database searches of SocINDEX, Academic Search Premier, Criminal Justice Abstracts and Social Work Abstracts were conducted in September and October of 2016 using a combination of the following search terms: “mental health court NOT juvenile” AND “outcome” or “effect” or “impact” or “effectiveness” AND “recidivism” or “re-arrest” or “clinical” or “treatment”. The search resulted in 13 articles meeting inclusion criteria, which were subsequently used in the final review.( The three main themes of recidivism, connection to treatment services and clinical outcomes each were evaluated to identify subthemes. These subthemes were: mental health courts have a positive impact on reducing recidivism, the importance of graduation from the program as opposed to being terminated or opting-out, the maintenance of a positive effect on recidivism beyond the supervision period, and finally, that mental health courts reduce the need for crisis services or hospitalization and increase the therapeutic treatment intensity for participants.) The research found conflicting findings regarding mental health courts’ impact on clinical outcomes.

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Social Work Commons