Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Lanesskog, Deirdre


Mental Health Courts (MHCs) are a diversion program for mentally ill offenders in lieu of incarceration. The Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration (SAMHSA) developed these specialized court programs in the 1990’s to assist mentally ill offenders in overcoming barriers to treatment. While new laws have begun to change the way mentally ill offenders are viewed from a law enforcement standpoint, social workers’ attitudes and beliefs about these programs have not been studied. This quantitative study’s purpose was to examine Master of Social Work (MSW) Graduate students’ attitudes and beliefs of mentally ill offenders and MHCs. Social work student participants completed an online questionnaire developed by the researchers using Qualtrics software. We analyzed the data using descriptive and inferential statistics, including a t-test. Our hypothesis that attitudes and beliefs of social work students varied based on the student’s year in the MSW program was not supported by the data. These findings suggest that students’ attitudes and beliefs about MHCs remain consistent throughout their graduate social work training. Although, our findings do not generalize to all social work students or to social workers in the field, these findings suggest students’ exposure to this topic during their MSW program may be limited and may warrant further investigation. We discuss these findings and their implications for social work curriculum and practice.