Mental Health Advice and Response Service

The Mental Health Advice and Response Service (MHARS), with the help of an experienced mental health clinician, provides advice and support to people involved in the criminal court system who may need mental health treatment.

MHARS can help court users:

  • with an existing mental illness
  • who require mental health treatment and support
  • who present with possible mental illness symptoms.

The program helps people by identifying individuals with a mental illness, providing timely advice on services and treatments to reduce delays in court proceedings, and linking court users to mental health treatment providers for early intervention.

MHARS also provides specialist clinical mental health advice to judges, court services, correctional services and court users to ensure appropriate mental health interventions and offers advice for people who are in custody. It does not provide direct or ongoing treatment services.

The process

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

  • provide mental state assessments and court reports to support judicial decisions, reducing 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
  • screen and assess people being considered for a community-based order who may not have a documented or self-reported mental illness.

MHARS can also provide education and training on mental illness and the mental health system and related legislation for court users.

Referrals

Anyone can refer to our County Court MHARS program, including:

  • judges
  • Court Assessment and Prosecution Services (CAPS)
  • Court Integrated Services Program (CISP)
  • court personnel
  • legal practitioners
  • police and prison-based services
  • court welfare and disability services
  • forensic medical officers and custodial health services
  • area mental health services
  • family and carers
  • self-referral.

Referral criteria

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

  • has a mental illness
  • presents with behaviour that may be related to a mental illness.

To make a referral, please contact the MHARS clinician at the County Court by email to mharscounty@forensicare.vic.gov.au.

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Page last updated: 11 December 2020