Mental Health Court


Mission Statement

The mission of the Thurston County Mental Health Court is to serve the community and increase public safety by monitoring, supporting and holding accountable justice-involved individuals with mental illness in accessing treatment and improving their quality of life. We treat each participant with respect and dignity, thus empowering them to make positive changes in their life.

"A whole community working together towards justice." - Mental Health Court Graduate

April 22, 2005 marked the first official hearing date of the Thurston County Mental Health Court, a service of the Thurston County District Court. The court is designed to offer a therapeutic approach to individuals suffering from mental illness who are currently involved in the local criminal justice system.


The Thurston County Mental Health Court is a court-supervised, comprehensive program available to mentally ill offenders who meet specific eligibility criteria.

To be considered for entry into the court:

  • S/he must have a diagnosable Axis I mental illness, brain injury or developmental disability.
  • The defendant will benefit from treatment for that diagnosis.
  • S/he has an open criminal case in Thurston County, City of Lacey, or City of Tumwater jurisdiction.

In addition to the above criteria:

  • an individual must demonstrate a low-medium risk to the community as determined by an objective risk assessment tool used during the elegibility interview

  • there must be a nexus, or link, between the individualís mental health and their criminal charge

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Program Goals

  • Improve public safety
  • Reduce the recidivism rate
  • Increase communication between the criminal justice and the mental health systems
  • Increase access to mental health treatment and increase access to community resources
  • Reduce criminal justice cost to the community by decreasing the number of jail bed days of the mentally ill offender population

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Process for Admission

Individuals are referred from many sources:

  • Treatment Providers
  • Judges
  • Probation officers
  • Prosecutors
  • Defense Counsel
  • Family Members
  1. The individual will meet with the Mental Health Court staff for assessment of eligibility.
  2. Prior to being considered for the program the participant is required to sign appropriate releases of information authorizing Mental Health Court staff to obtain information concerning the individual's mental and physical health treatments, drug and alcohol treatments (as necessary), and domestic violence treatment (if needed). This release of information allows the individual's case to be discussed at staffing.
  3. The case will be staffed by a multi-disciplinary team, including the Mental Health Court Judge, Prosecuting and Defense Attorneys, Mental Health Court staff, Domestic Violence Victim Advocate, Behavioral Health Resources Liaison, and additional professional staff when appropriate.
  4. The defendant must complete orientation and provide evidence sobriety.
  5. Prior to the hearing the defendant will discuss legal options with defense counsel to ensure they are making a well-informed and voluntary decision.
  6. Once accepted into the program the individual will be heard on the Mental Health Court calendar and will need to sign the Mental Health Court Contract, outlining their terms of participation.

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Program Participation

These elements are common to all participants:

  • Frequent court hearings before the Mental Health Court Judge
  • Progress report presented in court by the Mental Health Court staff with comments and recommendations based upon program progress and compliance
  • Ongoing monitoring with Mental Health Court Contract, including compliance with counseling / treatment requirements and sobriety
  • Engagement in individualized treatment plans designed by their treatment providers

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Graduation - A Beginning

The length of participation in the Mental Health Court Program is twenty-four (24) months. Graduation requires completion of a Graduation Plan to be presented in court. Upon successful completion of the program, the participant has an individualized graduation hearing.

Graduation is viewed as a beginning for the participant to:

  • Experience continued stability
  • Experience continued growth with respect to positive lifestyle changes
  • Be more productive within the community
  • Avoid further criminal law violations

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Mental Health Court Benefits

To the Community:

  • Reduced costs to the community resulting from court and jail overcrowding
  • Reduced criminal activity within the community
  • Increased contribution to the community from program participants

To the Participant:

  • Ongoing support in achieving goals
  • Increased stability
  • Avoid recidivism
  • Achieve a sense of dignity and self-worth
  • Empowerment to strive for future goal attainment

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More Information

If you would like more information about the Thurston County Mental Health Court, please call the Mental Health Court Program Manager at 360-867-2034.

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