The Mental Health Advice and Response Service (MHARS) operates in eight metropolitan courts: Melbourne, Broadmeadows, Ringwood, Heidelberg, Dandenong, Frankston, Moorabbin and Sunshine. MHARS provides clinical mental health advice within the court to reduce delays in proceedings and remands, and to improve the appropriateness of mental health interventions and referrals for people appearing before the court. The program enables clinical services to intervene early in the criminal justice process by identifying where individuals charged with an offence and appearing before the court have a mental illness, and by providing timely advice and linkage with treatment providers. Where needed, immediate psychiatric intervention is provided and referral made to appropriate mental health services. Priority is given to providing immediate responses to those presenting to the court who are acutely mentally unwell.
Specialist clinical mental health advice is provided to Magistrates, Community Correctional Services (CCS) and court users to ensure effective assessment, treatment and management, and that court processes are applied, while accounting for community safety and the mental health needs of the individual. Advice is provided:
- directly to Magistrates as required, which Magistrates use to inform sentencing decisions or whether a person can participate in court processes; and
- to CCS on the appropriateness of a mental health treatment and rehabilitation (MHTR) condition on a Community Correction Order (CCO), which in turn informs the advice CCS provides Magistrates on the application of a MHTR condition on a CCO.
The program also supports the court to understand mental health, including (but not limited to) in the context of offending. It does this through consultation and education to CCS, Magistrates and users of the court on mental health services and mental health issues.
For more information, please see our Forensicare Mental Health Advice and Response Service brochure, or phone 9947 2500.