A Guide to the Mental Health Court of Clark County, Washington

What is the Mental Health Court?

The Mental Health Court is a specialty court that is designed to help both misdemeanor and felony defendants who suffer from a mental illness. Under the guidance of professionally trained staff members, participants will be treated with the goal of making a positive change in their life. While post-plea cases are accepted, a “pre-plea” program is offered as well. This means the individual must waive their right to a speedy and jury trial. In order to continue in the program, the defendant must agree to certain stipulations. A contract will be required. If the person successfully completes the program, their pending charges can be dismissed.

Goals of the Mental Health Court

The primary goal of the Mental Health Court is to reduce criminal recidivism, which means the participant will be less likely to violate the law in the future. The criminal offender will have direct access to the appropriate treatment for their mental illness. By requiring strict accountability for unacceptable behavior, therapeutic specialty courts are able to hold participants responsible for their actions. On the other hand, positive behavior will be rewarded. All of the necessary resources will be available.

Aside from helping mentally ill offenders to strive and enjoy a better quality of life, the program’s goal is to help society as a whole. When criminal activity is reduced, it creates a safer environment for the public. Reduced costs within the criminal justice system also result from fewer incarcerations.

Eligibility Criteria

In order to participate in a therapeutic specialty court, one must meet the eligibility requirements. First of all, participants must be a Clark County, Washington resident who is at least 18 years of age. Individuals also must have a previously diagnosed mental health condition or substance abuse problem. Furthermore, the court requires participants to have the mental capacity to understand the conditions of the program. Lastly, prosecuting attorneys must approve of the program.

If the person has been convicted of any serious violent offenses or has any other pending charges, they will not be eligible. The court also forbids offenders who have committed a crime using a firearm.


Therapeutic specialty courts have been proven to have many benefits. By receiving ongoing support from experienced professionals, participants are able to avoid criminal activity. Self-esteem will be greatly improved as well, which gives the person a far better chance of achieving their goals.

The local community will also indirectly benefit from the program. Less money will be spent on overcrowded jails. Most importantly, public safety will be elevated. Instead of being incarnated or breaking the law, he or she will be able to positively contribute to the community.