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Assessing the effectiveness of mental health courts: A meta-analysis of clinical and recidivism outcomes

Sarteschi, Christine Marie (2009) Assessing the effectiveness of mental health courts: A meta-analysis of clinical and recidivism outcomes. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Mental health courts (MHC) are treatment oriented court diversion programs that seek to redirect individuals with severe mental illnesses (SMI), such as those with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression, who have committed a crime, into court mandated treatment programs instead of the criminal justice system. It is believed that individuals with SMI commit and re-commit offenses as a result of their illness and if directed to the appropriate treatments, would be less likely to offend. Currently, there are over 150 MHCs nationally operating in at least 35 states, yet a gap remains in the scientific literature concerning their ability to reduce recidivism and clinical outcomes. To determine their effectiveness in reducing recidivism and improving clinical outcomes, the first meta-analytic study of these courts was conducted. A systematic search of the literature through May 2008, as well as an e-mail survey, generated 23 studies representing 129 outcomes with over 11,000 MHC participants. Aggregate effects for recidivism revealed a mean effect size of -0.52. MHCs had a small to medium positive effect of 0.28 on a participant's quality of life. Among quasi-experimental studies, there was a small effect size of - 0.14 for clinical outcomes indicating a positive improvement. Based on this analysis, MHCs are effective interventions for reducing recidivism and improving clinical and quality of life outcomes.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Sarteschi, Christine Mariecmlst44@pitt.eduCMLST44
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairVaughn, Michael
Committee CoChairCopeland, Valire Carrsswvcc@pitt.eduSSWVCC
Committee MemberShook, Jeffreyjes98@pitt.eduJES98
Committee MemberKim, Kevin Hkhkim@pitt.eduKHKIM
Committee MemberFusco, Rachel Araf45@pitt.eduRAF45
Date: 27 August 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 22 July 2009
Approval Date: 27 August 2009
Submission Date: 27 August 2009
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Social Work > Social Work
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: diversion programs; mental health courts; mentally ill offenders; criminal justice system; severe mental illness
Other ID:, etd-08272009-143525
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:01
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:49


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