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The Impact of Mental Health Court on Recidivism and Other Key Outcomes – DSHS Report


After years of anecdotal evidence indicating King County Regional Mental Health Court (RMHC) is working, a rigorous scientific analysis shows meaningful and significant impacts for both the community overall and for people with mental health disorders.


A December 2018 study by the Washington State Dept. of Social and Health Services (DSHS) demonstrates the court “is achieving the goal of reducing recidivism and improving community safety.” The researchers go on to say, “The court appears to be breaking the cycle of criminal involvement for a significant number of hard-to-serve individuals with extensive prior criminal justice involvement.”


The DSHS report, “The Impact of Mental Health Court on Recidivism and Other Key Outcomes,” demonstrated substantial benefits to the overall community, as well as to individual RMHC participants – over a one-year period – as follows:


  1. RMHC participants had significantly lower rates of re-offending – 28% of mental health court participants were charged with a new crime compared to 38% of people in the comparison group (which equals a 26% lower recidivism rate)


  2. RMHC participants also had substantially fewer days of incarceration – 48 days versus 67 days, on average, for a difference of 19 fewer days in jail


  3. Mental health court participants had lower rates of psychiatric hospitalization than the comparison group (11% vs. 25%) and fewer emergency department visits (1.8 visits vs. 3.2 visits – a 44% reduction)


  4. “(RMHC) participants were significantly more likely to participate in substance use disorder treatment during the follow-up period than their peers” (62% vs. 25% - a difference of 37 percentage points)


Together, these figures indicate safer communities due to reduced crime; potentially lower costs to King County taxpayers from reduced jail usage and emergency department visits; better health and wellness for people with mental health disorders; and greater peace of mind for family members due to fewer crisis incidents for their loved ones with a mental health disorder.