National and state-level trends in the availability of mental health treatment services tailored to individuals ordered to treatment by a court: United States, 2016, 2018, and 2020

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2024 Jan 9. doi: 10.1007/s00127-023-02589-8. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Purpose: We sought to identify trends and characteristics associated with the availability of tailored mental health services for individuals involved in the criminal justice system and ordered to treatment by a court, nationally in the US and by state.

Methods: We used National Mental Health Services Survey to identify outpatient mental health treatment facilities in the US (2016 n = 4744; 2018 n = 4626; 2020 n = 4869). We used clustered multiple logistic regression to identify changes over time as well as facility- and state-level factors associated with the availability of specialty court-ordered services.

Results: Slightly more than half of the outpatient mental health treatment facilities offered specialized services for individuals ordered to treatment by a court, with wide variation between states. Nationally, there was a significant increase in the odds of offering court-ordered treatment in 2020 compared to 2016 (aOR = 1.16, 95% CI = 1.06-1.27, p < 0.01). Notable associations included offering integrated substance use treatment (versus none, aOR = 2.95, 95% CI = 2.70-3.22, p < 0.0001) and offering trauma therapy (versus none, aOR = 2.05, 95% CI = 1.85-2.27, p < 0.0001).

Conclusion: The availability of mental health services for individuals ordered to treatment by a court is growing nationally but several states are lagging behind. Court ordered treatment is a promising strategy to improve health and reduce reliance on the carceral system as a healthcare provider. At the same time, we express caution around disparities within behavioral health courts and advocate for equity in access to incarceration alternatives.

Keywords: Court-ordered treatment; Epidemiology; Health services; Incarceration; Mental health.