This report describes how municipal courts can be an effective mechanism for diverting individuals who are justice involved and have a mental and/or substance use disorder to recoverservices. The report recommends that civil courts identify and screen individuals with mental and/or substance use disorders, have a court-based clinician on staffand employ recovery-based engagement. When used together, these elements can reduce the unnecessary incarceration of people with behavioral health issues. If a sentence must be delivered, assisting those with mental and/or substance use disorders will have a sentence delivered that is proportionate to the misdemeanors. 

As a diversion strategy, municipal courts are underutilized. Municipal courts that implement four essential elements—identification and screening, court-based clinician, recovery-based engagement, and proportional response—are in the position to minimize the criminal justice system involvement and reduce unnecessary incarceration of people with mental and co-occurring substance use disorders as well as facilitate engagement or re-engagement in mental health and substance use disorder services. Applying these strategies can reduce the chances of further justice-involvement and address the needs of the individual. 

This resource was first shared in 2015. 

(Publication, PDF, 1 MB – External Link)