Psychological Injury and Law

, Volume 12, Issue 3–4, pp 247–256 | Cite as

The Impact of Substance Arrests on the Efficacy of Mental Health Court

  • Julie S. CostopoulosEmail author
  • Justine M. Swanson
  • Vida L. Tyc
  • Robyn E. Tapley
  • Gary N. Burns


There is ample evidence that Mental Health Courts (MHCs) are effective in reducing recidivism for participants who are mentally ill. This study will examine if MHCs are effective for the large number of clients with mental illness who abuse substances. Participants in Brevard County Florida’s Mental Health Court (N = 118) were examined for a history of substance arrests. Those with a substance history (n = 63) were compared to those without a substance history and examined for the outcome variables of days free before rearrest, severity of rearrest, and offense type (e.g., substance related, etc.). A history of substance arrests resulted in more rearrests for any offense at 1 year and more rearrests for a substance offense 3 years post-MHC, compared to participants without prior substance arrests. A survival analysis demonstrated that more MHC graduates without substance arrest history were able to remain arrest free in the community than those with substance arrest history. For those participants with a substance arrest history, graduating MHC was associated with less rearrests in general, less substance rearrests, and less severe rearrests than their non-graduating comparison group. Within the first 6 months of leaving MHC, the amount of substance arrests before they enter the program predicts the amount of substance offenses committed after they leave the program, and the association is much stronger in those who do not graduate MHC. Findings suggest that MHC has a significant impact even on those with co-occurring disorders. However, they are at greatest vulnerability to relapse with substances within the first 6 months after leaving MHC, suggesting greater substance-specific supports in the community for dually diagnosed participants may be beneficial.


Substance abuse Mental illness Mental health court Co-occurring disorders Recidivism 



The authors would like to thank the FIT Forensic Clinical Research Team for their assistance. The assistance of Dr. Barry Hensel and Tanya Johnson at Circles of Care, Blaise Trettis, Wayne Holmes, and Judge Cathleen Clarke was essential to the completion of this project.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida Institute of TechnologyMelbourneUSA

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