Note: This page is intended for court personnel, lawyers and judges regarding court-ordered mental health evaluations.
Year after year, we noticed that our HelpLine received a significant number of calls from people who had been court-ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation. The orders - often generically called “psych eval” – typically did not contain clear-cut instructions. Often, the defendant did not have a clear understanding about the type of evaluation or testing being ordered, or what type of mental health professional’s report would be accepted by the court. Sometimes, it was not clear what the mental health professional should focus on. Our staff also observed the overall dire shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals willing to conduct court-mandated evaluations, which results in unrealistic turn-around times to present the findings to the court.
Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri (MHA-EM) identified a need to educate the courts about what different types of mental health professionals can do an evaluation, the various types of standardized evaluations, and to alert the court about the shortage of psychiatrists.
Working closely with judges and court officials, MHA-EM created the Court Evaluation Fact Sheet and Form document to assist attorneys or judges who are making decisions about whether or not to request or impose a court-mandated mental health evaluation.
- The Fact Sheet provides factors to consider when requesting or ordering an evaluation. These items include:
- cost and insurance factors
- challenges related to wait lists
- which type of mental health professional performs which type(s) of evaluation or conducts testing
- suggestions of notations to include on the order so the defendant will clearly know what to ask for and so the clinician will clearly understand what is required
- community resources the defendant can contact to receive services or referrals when the court does not directly refer to a specific evaluator
- The Form helps court officials:
- clarify the purpose of the order
- provide a framework that gives the court the option to indicate broad or specific mandates so the defendant and evaluator more clearly understand what is expected
We hope you find this tool useful in your work when ordering mental health evaluations.