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Mental Health Advice and Response Service (courts)

The Mental Health Advice and Response Service (MHARS) plays a key role in the public mental health response to the overrepresentation of people with a mental illness in the criminal justice system.

MHARS supports people involved in the court system who need mental health advice, treatment or support. With the help of an experienced mental health clinician, the program helps court users:

  • With an existing mental illness
  • Who require mental health treatment and support
  • Who present with possible mental illness symptoms

We assist courts users and courts by:

  • Identifying people with a mental illness
  • Providing mental state assessments and court reports to support informed judicial decisions to reduce delays in court proceedings and remands
  • Providing advice on diverting clients from the judicial system (if possible) through mental health legislation
  • Establishing links to mental health providers for court users as required to support early intervention
  • Providing specialist clinical mental health advice to judges and correctional services to ensure appropriate mental health interventions for people who are in custody.
  • Refering people to appropriate services for further testing and treatment if necessary (as listed under the Mental Health Act 2014)
  • Liaising with public and private service providers, facilitating streamlined inter-agency collaboration
  • Screening and assess people being considered for a community-based order who may not have a documented or self-reported mental illness

We can also provide education and training on mental illness and the mental health system—as well as related legislation—for court users and staff.

Please note: the MHARS program does not provide direct, ongoing treatment services.

Where we operate

The service operates in eight metropolitan courts: Melbourne, Broadmeadows, Ringwood, Heidelberg, Dandenong, Frankston, Moorabbin and Sunshine.

How to make a referral

You can make a MHARS referral for anyone appearing in court or in custody who:

  • Has a mental illness
  • Presents with behaviour that may be related to a mental illness

Anyone can make a referral to the program, and you can also self-refer.

From 18 October 2021, referrals to MHARS for mental health assessment require submission of an MHARS Assessment Request form (with the exception of assessment for a Community Correction Order – Mental Health Screen). For more information visit our MHARS Assessment Request Form User Guide.

MHARS County Court Pilot

Following the success of the MHARS program in metropolitan courts, on 30 November 2020, the County Court pilot program was launched in the Melbourne County Court.

You can see more about the County Court MHARS program here.

More information

For more information, please see our Forensicare Mental Health Advice and Response Service brochure, or phone 9947 2500.