Evaluating the Felony Mental Health Court of Harris County, Texas


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Mental health is one of the most critical yet complicated areas for public health researchers. The dynamic characteristics of contemporary clinical notions of mental illness and the accompanying landscape of ever-changing health policies can create unique challenges for research efforts. In spite of such difficulties, mental health research is ongoing at a national level. In 2004, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that, for people over the age of eighteen, 57.7 million, or 26.2 percent of adults in the United States had a diagnosable mental disorder. Within the United States incarceration settings bear a disproportionate burden of mental health illness. According to a 2005 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 50% of those in state prison, federal prison, and local jails have a diagnosable mental health condition. In some jurisdictions, for individuals who have been convicted of a criminal offense- and who have a clinical history of mental illness, specialty mental health courts have been created to provide alternative sentencing in lieu of jail or prison time.
This project explores a number of key national public health goals as reflected in the objectives of “Healthy People 2020” including mental health and mental disorders, health-related quality of life and well-being, substance abuse, public health infrastructure, access to health services, and social determinants of health. The complex intervention of mental health courts serves as a site through which the application of the relative success or failure of objectives can be revealed at the local level.



Public health, mental health, mental health court, Harris County, Felony Mental Health Court.