Mental Health Court

Mental Health Court is a specialized court where the judge, defense, prosecution, probation counselors, and a mental health clinician all work as a team to improve the life and outcomes for the client. It is a voluntary program where participants are referred from judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, jail staff, or others. Mental Health Court has saved thousands of jail days, thousands of hospital bed days, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in jail costs to the City of Seattle.

To become a participant, the key factor is determining if the criminal activity is related to or caused by any type of mental illness, including from developmental disabilities, brain injury, or dementia. Eligible participants may be facing any type of charge and can be a first-time offender or have a lengthy record.

How It Works

  • Individuals referred to the Mental Health Court voluntarily agree to two years of probation, combined with housing and specialized treatment.
  • A clinical mental health expert will assess the client's needs and provide a treatment plan.
  • Probation counselors individually meet with clients on a regular basis, for up to two years.
  • The judge holds review hearings to monitor progress and provide praise, guidance, and direction.

Mental Health Court Goals

  • Improve overall public safety.
  • Reduce jail time and repeat interaction with the criminal justice system for mentally ill individuals.
  • Connect or re-connect mentally ill individuals with needed mental health services.
  • Improve likelihood of ongoing success with treatment, access to housing or shelter, and critical support for mentally ill individuals.

Contact Information

Tonya Dotson, Probation Manager
Phone: (206) 584-7840

Other Courts and Mental Health Resources

  • King County Regional Mental Health Court: The King County Regional Mental Health Court serves individuals throughout King County, except for cases within the city of Seattle.
  • Crisis Clinic: Provides crisis intervention, information, and referral information to all people of King County. The Crisis Clinic operates a 24-hour broad focus telephone crisis intervention and referral service at (206) 461-3222.
  • King County Mental Health Division: Provides a list of both residential and community-based treatment providers for mental health issues. Advocacy sites:
  • National Alliance for the Mentally Ill - Greater Seattle (NAMI): A nonprofit organization whose major goal is to address the unmet needs of individuals with severe mental illness and their families.
  • National Alliance for the Mentally Ill: They are dedicated to the eradication of mental illnesses and to the improvement of the quality of life of those whose lives are affected by these disorders.
  • Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration: The Federal agency charged with improving the quality and availability of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation services in order to reduce illness, death, disability, and cost to society resulting from substance abuse and mental illnesses.
  • The Council of State Government, Mental Health and Criminal Justice Consensus Project : The Consensus Project compiles information about Mental Health Courts and best practices across the country
  • Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law: A nonprofit legal advocacy organization based in Washington D.C. whose name honors the federal appeals court judge whose landmark decisions pioneered the field of mental health law, and our advocacy is based on the principle that every individual is entitled to choice and dignity.
  • National Institute of Mental Health: Their mission is to diminish the burden of mental illness through research. This public health mandate demands that we harness powerful scientific tools to achieve better understanding, treatment, and eventually prevention of mental illness.