Statewide Mental Health Court Study
Study Dates: 2014 – 2015
Study Description: This report provides details on the programs, participants, eligibility criteria, and methods/outcomes used to study 43 MHCs across the United States, Australia, and Canada. It also describes the program components, target populations, and available data for the nine MHCs in Utah. Both the Utah MHCs and the studies included in this review reflect significant heterogeneity in terms of program and study components. Unfortunately, these differences limit the generalizability of findings across programs. Nevertheless, this report provides a detailed cataloguing of methods used to evaluate the impact of MHCs and can be used to inform discussions as a statewide evaluation plan is finalized.
Evaluation of Utah’s Mental Health Courts: Limited Findings and a Review of Research Challenges
Study Dates: 2017 – 2018
Study Description: The goal of second phase of the study was to assess the efficacy of Utah’s MHCs using a matched sample of individuals with similar treatment and criminal histories. Four jurisdictions were considered for the evaluation, as these were the only jurisdictions with a sufficiently large sample of cases: Utah, Salt Lake, Cache, and Weber counties. Propensity Score Matching (PSM) was used in an attempt to identify comparison groups based on variables that predict the likelihood of being placed in the treatment group (in this case, the likelihood of participation in the MHC). A large number of PSM algorithms were employed in an attempt to obtain a matched comparison sample.
Unfortunately, due to a high degree of missing mental health history data, PSM could not identify an appropriate comparison group. Because the study was unable to implement the intended methods to examine MHC outcomes, the MHCs were evaluated using an alternative, and less rigorous, method. Using pre-post data for MHC clients only, participant data was assessed regarding defendants’ offending behavior in all four MHCs, and mental wellness for the Salt Lake and Utah MHCs. Each court was evaluated separately for both recidivism and mental health outcomes. Given the inability to implement the intended PSM design, some of the challenges that future studies would face and recommendations for how to address these issues are discussed.