The MacArthur Mental Health Court Project

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Network on Community Mandated Treatment, Professor John Monahan

Co-Researchers: Henry J. Steadman, Lisa Callahan, and Pamela C. Robbins

Abstract
The purpose of the MacArthur MHC Study is to determine whether participation in mental health courts (as opposed to treatment as usual) leads to better access to mental health and substance abuse treatment in the community, and in turn, whether increased access leads to more favorable mental health and criminal justice outcomes (e.g., improved quality of life, lowered recidivism). Briefly, MHCs are criminal courts for persons with mental illness and serve as a form of diversion from jails/prisons into community mental health treatment.

The MacArthur MHC Study has five primary research questions: 1) Is participation in MHCs associated with more favorable criminal justice outcomes than processing through the regular criminal court system?; 2) Does participation in a MHC produce higher rates of treatment participation than processing through the regular criminal court system?; 3) Is higher treatment participation associated with more favorable mental health and criminal justice outcomes than lower treatment participation?; 4) Do high sanctioning MHCs have higher rates of treatment participation than low sanctioning MHCs?; and 5) For what type of defendants do MHCs produce the most favorable mental health and criminal justice outcomes? To answer these questions, data were collected by self-report and via objective record reviews. Self-report data comes from a total of more than 1,000 MHC clients and jail inmates at each of four data collection sites. Objective records come from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, jail and court records, and treatment utilization systems.