Mental health courts and title II of the Ada: Accessibility to state court systems for individuals with mental disabilities and the need for diversion

Access to the judicial system, a fundamental right that has paramount importance in our society, can often present obstacles to people with disabilities in a variety of significant ways. Yet Title II mandates that state and local judicial facilities be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Recent shifts in paradigmatic approaches to special populations such as drug offenders and offenders with mental disabilities have lead to the creation of mental health courts specifically designed to address the needs of the persons with mental disabilities in order to avoid incarceration. Early outcomes in states like Ohio suggest mental health courts may better serve the purposes of Title II and, more importantly, the needs of individuals with serious mental disabilities. This paper gives a more detailed account of the background and history of the disability antidiscrimination legislation, takes a closer look at the Supreme Court's decision in Tennessee v. Lane, and discusses the historical context giving rise to the creation of mental health courts. Next, this paper explores the challenges and criticisms faced by these specialty courts, evaluates mental health courts under two integral concepts of Title II, accessibility and integration, and concludes that mental health courts may withstand scrutiny under Title II.
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