West Virginia Judiciary

Mental Health Court

What is a Mental Health Court?

A mental health court is a special court program that diverts non-violent criminal offenders who have been diagnosed with an Axis I mental illness from the criminal justice system into treatment. Offenders undergo a professional mental health evaluation by a licensed psychologist before being accepted.

The program includes a three step, progressively narrowing protocol for participant inclusion.

  1. Non-clinical referral and screening
  2. Clinical diagnostic assessment and screening
  3. Completion of a treatment plan

The following are the minimum requirements for acceptance into mental health court as a voluntary diversion program offering treatment alternatives to conviction and incarceration for the mentally ill.

If accepted, participants must attend assigned mental health and other treatment and abstain from criminal behavior. Participating offenders are closely supervised in the community by multi-disciplinary treatment teams that are dedicated to improving the client’s social functioning and decreasing their contact with the criminal justice system. Supervision may include random drug testing if an offender has a co-occurring substance abuse issue.

The length of court supervision and regular periodic review continues up to the maximum allowable sentence or probation for the charged offense, or until completion of the prescribed treatment plan by the offender, if sooner. The typical participation time is approximately one year in mental health court. Successful completion of the treatment plan results in dismissal or reduction of charges and reduced or deferred sentencing. Upon graduation, participants are encouraged to voluntarily continue treatment and services in the community, and case management is transferred to the applicable regional mental health facility for continuity of care.

The missions and goals of mental health court follow.