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.

Who we are

MHARS provides advice and support to people involved in the court system who may need mental health treatment or support. With the help of an experienced mental health clinician, the program can help court users:

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

What we do

We help people involved in the criminal justice system by providing mental health advice and support to ensure timely mental health treatment for court users, when they need it.

We can assist the court with:

  • Identifying individuals with a mental illness
  • Providing timely advice on services and treatments to reduce delays in court proceedings
  • Linkages and referrals to mental health treatment providers for court users to ensure early intervention

We also provide specialist clinical mental health advice to Judges, court users, correctional services and court users to ensure appropriate mental health interventions for people who are in custody.

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

How we do it

After a court user is referred to the MHARS program, we can:

• Provide mental state assessments and court reports to support informed judicial decisions to reduce delays in court proceedings and remands
• Provide advice on diverting clients from the judicial system (if possible) through mental health legislation
• Establish links to mental health providers for court users as required
• Refer people to appropriate services for further testing and treatment if necessary (as listed under the Mental Health Act 2014)
• Liaise with public and private service providers, facilitating streamlined inter-agency collaboration
• Screen 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.

Referral criteria

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 refer to the MHARS program, including self-referral.

MHARS in metropolitan courts

The Mental Health Advice and Response Service operates in eight metropolitan courts: Melbourne, Broadmeadows, Ringwood, Heidelberg, Dandenong, Frankston, Moorabbin and Sunshine.

MHARS County Court Pilot

Following the success of the MHARS program in metropolitan courts, from 30 November 2020, the County Court pilot program will launch 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.