Justice, Treatment, and Cost

An Evaluation of the Fiscal Impact of Allegheny County Mental Health Court

by M. Susan Ridgely, John Engberg, Michael D. Greenberg, Susan Turner, Christine DeMartini, Jacob W. Dembosky

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Abstract

This report presents findings from a fiscal impact study of the Allegheny County Mental Health Court (MHC) Program. We acquired and linked individual-level data on 365 MHC participants from six state and local public agencies to generate a combined data set that included all relevant criminal justice, mental health, and welfare (cash assistance) utilization. Comparison conditions were constructed to determine the net savings or increase in expenditures of the MHC program as compared to routine adjudication and processing. The results indicate that the MHC program is diverting mentally ill offenders into treatment. In the first year, decreased jail expenditures approximately offset increased costs of treatment. The findings also suggest that, over a longer time frame, the MHC program may result in a net savings to taxpayers. Prospective tracking of participants would be needed to quantify clinical outcomes, as well as to clarify which conditions and offenses MHC supervision most effectively addresses.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Prior Studies of Mental Health Courts

  • Chapter Three

    The Allegheny County Mental Health Court

  • Chapter Four

    Methods

  • Chapter Five

    Findings

  • Chapter Six

    Study Limitations

  • Chapter Seven

    Conclusions and Policy Implications

  • Appendix

    Detailed Explanation of Samples and Methods with Additional Tables

This research was sponsored by the Council of State Governments and conducted under the auspices of the Safety and Justice Program within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE).

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