In 2000 the first mental health treatment court in North Carolina was established in Orange County in response to advocacy efforts of the Orange County chapter of NAMI to address the needs of citizens with mental illness in the local court system (www.consensusproject.org). Funding for this court derived from a State Mental Health Block Grant and a Bureau of Justice Assistance grant. In 2004, the General Assembly passed a special provision that authorized a pilot mental health court:
Mental Health Treatment Courts Section 10.27.(a)
The Administrative Offices of the Courts shall establish pilot programs in judicial districts 15B, 26, and 28 that add a mental health treatment component to the existing drug treatment courts in those districts, thereby expanding those courts into therapeutic court programs aimed at providing treatment to repeat adult offenders with needs for either mental health or substance abuse services. The purpose of the mental health treatment component of the pilot programs is to facilitate cooperation between the State mental health system, mental health service providers, and the judicial system in order for the State mental health system to provide repeat adult offenders that need mental health services with treatment and other mental health services aimed at improving their ability to function in the community, thereby reducing recidivism and easing the workload of the courts.
The special provision also authorized an independent evaluation to determine the effectiveness of the courts. Mental Health courts are currently only in "pilot status" and the AOC is not encouraging any expansion until further direction from the state legislature.
A review of the literature (c.f., Steadman, Davidson, Brown (2001)) reveals the following typical goals of a MHTC:
- Protect public safety
- Decrease expenditures
- Improve quality of life
- Improve outcomes, accountability, and collaboration
- Use therapeutic jurisprudence