Wellness Court Programs are specialty or problem-solving courts where a team of professionals helps treat the issues contributing to the individual coming into conflict with the law. These issues may include mental illness, substance use or gambling. Other areas in which specialty courts have been established include domestic violence and Indigenous restorative justice.
Collaboration and creative problem-solving are central to these programs. Unlike the traditional adversarial approach of the regular criminal courts, Wellness Court Programs develop and administer a support plan that is unique to the needs of each individual participant. The court team monitors the individual’s progress while holding them accountable for their crime and continually assessing their potential risk to public safety. The team can also help participants connect or re-connect to support services in their community, rebuild relationships with their victims, and improve their well-being and living situations so they are less likely to reoffend.
The longest running Wellness Court Program in Nova Scotia is the Dartmouth Wellness Court, which launched in 2009 as the Nova Scotia Mental Health Court Program. Since then, Wellness Court Programs have been set up in Port Hawkesbury, Kentville, Amherst, Bridgewater, Truro and Wagmatcook First Nation.
Best Practice Framework for Nova Scotia Wellness Court Programs
Cultural Competence Guide for Nova Scotia Wellness Court Programs
Wellness Court Programs Evaluation Framework
Wellness Court Programs Steering Committee Terms of Reference
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Dartmouth Wellness Court
The Dartmouth Wellness Court is the longest running wellness court program in the province. A team of justice and health-care professionals administers the Mental Health Court Program and the Substance Use Disorder Program. MORE
Wellness Court Programs in Nova Scotia
The longest running Wellness Court Program in Nova Scotia is the Dartmouth Wellness Court, which launched in 2009 as the Nova Scotia Mental Health Court Program. Since then, Wellness Court Programs have been set up in Port Hawkesbury, Kentville, Amherst, Bridgewater, Truro and Wagmatcook First Nation. MORE
Wagmatcook Provincial Court
The Provincial Court in Wagmatcook First Nation is unique to Nova Scotia and among the few in the country that incorporates Indigenous restorative justice traditions and customs. It includes the Gladue and the Healing to Wellness court programs for Indigenous individuals who come into conflict with the law. MORE
Wellness Court Program Evaluations
November 2019 marked a decade since the original Nova Scotia Mental Health Court Program began in Dartmouth, N.S. The original program has evolved and grown substantially over that time. With that in mind, the Dartmouth Wellness Court team agreed the 10th anniversary was a good opportunity to evaluate the programs now offered in Dartmouth, as well as the Wellness Court Programs that opened up since in Amherst, Port Hawkesbury and Kentville. The court team collaborated with the School of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Health, at Dalhousie University to do the evaluation, which is ongoing. The preliminary findings of their research are now available.
Nova Scotia's Wellness Courts: Progressing Justice (November 2019)
This first phase of this evaluation focused primarily on qualitative data. The research team spent 12 months conducting interviews and focus groups with team members and court program participants, as well as doing a thorough document review of the program files in each location. The second phase reviewed quantitative data collected from the Department of Justice and the Nova Scotia Health Authority, for Dartmouth Wellness Court graduates, regarding re-contact with the criminal justice system and urgent/acute hospital-based care. The next phase of the evaluation will collect information about key indicators of success and outcomes deemed meaningful by court participants, as well as the community stakeholders that play a key role in the recovery journey of court participants.
Prior to the 10th anniversary evaluation, two other reviews were completed of the wellness court programs in Dartmouth.
The Mental Health Court Report (November 2014)
Mental Health Court Evaluation Report (April 2015)
In December 2017, the province released a report reviewing the first three years of the Court Monitored Mental Health Program in Kings and West Hants counties. The report provides an overview of the development and operations of the program. It also outlines the program's goals and summarizes its success in achieving those.
Three-Year Operational Report (December 2017)