Dartmouth Professional Centre
277 Pleasant Street
Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

PHONE: (902) 722-1040

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The Mental Health Court Program operates out of Courtoom #5 on the 1st floor of the courthouse.
Program's office is on the 2nd floor.

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To review the policies & forms frequently used in the Mental Health Court Program

CBC The National recently visited the
Mental Health Court Program in Dartmouth.

CLICK HERE >> to watch the coverage.

Who Is It For?

The Mental Health Court Program is designed for adults (persons 18 years of age and older) charged with a criminal offence within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court. Participation in the Program is voluntary.

All applicants must live in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). This is to ensure the Program’s clinicians can do wellness checks at the client’s home, should there be an urgent need to do so. Applicants must also have a substantial connection to the HRM, which must include, but is not limited to, working or attending school in the area, and their mental health support persons and programs must be within the municipal boundaries.

Participants must acknowledge responsibility for the act or omission that forms the basis of the offence(s) they are alleged to have committed. They must also have a mental disorder that is a recognized serious and persistent mental illness and is substantially connected to the commission of the offence. The Crown Prosecutor in the Mental Health Court must consent to their participation and their risk must be manageable in the community.

The Process

The accused first appears in Provincial Court for arraignment. At that hearing, with the accused's consent, police, lawyers, Sheriffs, family members/friends or the accused themself may ask for a referral to the Mental Health Court. The presiding Judge will decide whether the referral is appropriate.

As part of their graduation, participants in the Mental Health Court Program are invited to create or donate a piece of their personal artwork to display on the Wall of Hope in the courtroom.



If the accused is referred to the Mental Health Court, a screening assessment is done and a referral is made to the team for further consideration. It usually takes about six weeks to determine whether an individual will be invited to participate in the Program. If the accused is accepted, a participation agreement is signed and a support plan is developed. The support plan, agreed to by the participant, includes requirements such as participating in programming and attending clinical appointments.


The Mental Health Court is not a trial court. Participants are required to publicly accept responsibility for their criminal actions. Before that can happen, the Crown Prosecutor for the Mental Health Court must first determine that there is a reasonable prospect of conviction if the case were to go to trial.

If a case is accepted, outcomes may include:

Withdrawal of the Charge
A Fine
Absolute Discharge
Peace Bond
Conditional Discharge
Conditional Sentence
Suspended Sentence with Probation
Custodial Disposition
Community Service    


The Nova Scotia Mental Health Court Team

The Mental Health Court Team (seen here in Courtroom #5 at Provincial Court in Dartmouth) is made up of professionals from the justice and health-care systems. Together and individually, the team members work with Program participants from when they are first referred to the Court right through to when they "graduate"

The team consists of a Crown attorney, a defence attorney (from Nova Scotia Legal Aid), a probation officer, two mental health clinicians, a forensic psychologist, and an addictions social worker.  The Court also has available to it consulting forensic psychiatrists who provide opinions in situations where it is unclear to the Team whether a qualifying mental health disorder exists.  The Court is overseen by a dedicated Judge.

The Mental Health Court team’s clinicians, in consultation with the probation officer, complete the eligibility screening for each of the people referred to the Court. The decision to accept an individual into the program is made by consensus after thoughtful, thorough, and frank discussions among the team members and the Judge.

The defence attorney supports and advocates on behalf of their clients and provides assistance to the team. The Crown attorney is involved in determining initial admission for screening as well as addressing ongoing issues that may affect public safety. When an individual has complex or unclear symptoms, they are referred to the East Coast Forensic Hospital where forensic psychologists and/or psychiatrists are available to provide clarification and/or consultation. This partnership is vital to assisting the team in the screening, planning, and management of individuals involved with the Court.

The Mental Health Court's First Five Years

On Nov. 5, 2014, the Mental Health Court marked five years of operation. More than 200 people who came into conflict with the law because of their mental illness have graduated from the Court's program to date. They have been helped to get their lives back on track instead of being sent to jail. To mark its five year anniversary, the Court issued a report detailing its work. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE REPORT >>

On June 22, 2015, the Court released the results of an independent study of three of the Court's first five years. The comprehensive 72-page report details the findings of an evaluation conducted by Dr. Mary Ann Campbell of the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies and the Psychology Department at the University of New Brunswick - Saint John Campus. Dr. Campbell found that the Mental Health Court is doing what it was intended to do and recommended that it continue to be funded. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE REPORT >>

The Mental Health Court Report, November 2014 READ THE REPORT >>

MHC Evaluation Report, June 2015 READ THE REPORT >>


Problem Solving Courts Across Canada


In 2016, the Canadian Council of Chief Judges (CCCJ) commissioned the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) to develop a problem solving court evaluation template that would facilitate the standardization of such evaluations in Canada. The resulting document included guidelines, tips, sample forms, and a template framework for problem solving court evaluations. UNB also sent a survey to professionals working within problem solving court contexts to gain the “knowledge user” perspective with regard to the areas of problem solving court implementation, process and outcomes that they viewed as being most important to include in an evaluation.




More Detailed Information About the Court


Court Monitored Drug Treatment Program

The Nova Scotia Mental Health Court also maintains a program which offers alternative criminal sentences for people charged with crimes related to their opioid addiction. For more information, CLICK HERE >>

Click on the following links to print a brochure with more information on the Mental Health Court
and the Court Monitored Drug Treatment Program in ENGLISH >> or in FRENCH >>

There is a similar Mental Health Court Program currently being piloted in Kentville,
serving Kings and Hants Counties.
For more information, CLICK HERE >>

There is also a Court Monitored Drug Treatment Program in Kentville.
Find out more about it HERE >>