National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy


Supporting Clients' Rights, Dignity, Wellness and Recovery in 
Mental Health Courts:
A Roundtable Discussion

Delphine Brody &
Gwen Lewis-Reid

Given that most of the nation's recent proliferation of mental health courts were not designed in consultation with mental health clients or legal advocates, how can these courts best uphold the rights, dignity, wellness and recovery of mental health clients/survivors charged with crimes?  A roundtable discussion will examine these issues. 


Outline of Workshop/Presentation including learning Goals and Objectives 

I.  Brief Introductions

II. Panel Presentations: Each panelist will be asked to respond to the following six questions  

1. What elements in mental health court program design and implementation have ensured clients' rights or honored their dignity, and culture?  

2. What aspects in mental health court program design and implementation have interfered with clients' rights, ignored their culture, or treated them disrespectfully? 

3. What strategies should mental health courts use in their design and implementation to better protect and uphold clients' rights, dignity and culture? 

    Re. Questions 1-3:  Discussion of issues including but not limited to:

  • Voluntary participation vs. coercion, including client's right to refuse any and all services; 
  • Pre-booking diversion vs. post-booking and post-conviction diversion; 
  • Avoiding incarceration vs. some jail time;  
  • The role of non-state/non-local-government-funded legal advocacy agencies;
  • Legal advocate (mental health background criteria, selection by client vs. court);
  • Whose identification of successful program completion counts (client vs. court); 
  • Ordering the system to provide services and supports vs. ordering the person to receive treatment; 
  • Cultural competency issues, including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, language, client culture, tracking data on disparities in the legal and mental health systems, identification and elimination of disparities
  • Inclusion of mental health courts in overall public mental health planning, including issues of transparency and inclusion
  • Oversight and accountability of mental health courts
  • Other issues concerning rights, dignity and cultural competence
     

4. What elements in mental health court program design and implementation have supported clients' wellness, recovery and resilience? 

5. What aspects in mental health court program design and implementation have interfered with clients' wellness, recovery or resilience? 

6. What strategies should mental health courts use in their design and implementation to better support wellness, recovery and resilience? 

    Re. Questions 4-6: Discuss issues including but not limited to:

  • What categories of clients should be served by mental health courts; 
  • Whether diagnostic criteria should be used and which diagnoses should be included; 
  • The role and selection of mental health counselors/advocates (including peer counselors/advocates); 
  • Training for mental health court staff (the role of client/survivor-led trainings vs. trainings led by professionals or family members);
  • The role of offering a broad array of services and supports;
  • The role of harm reduction;
  • The role of trauma-informed care;
  • The role of peer support and self-help;
  • The role of holistic approaches and culturally specific healing modalities

III. Q & A and Discussion 

IV. [If time and attendance allows:] Breakout groups based on participant interests, report-back 


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