Individuals who receive any treatment or service for mental illness, substance use disorder, or developmental disability in Wisconsin have rights under state law. These rights are intended to assure that treatment will be provided in the least restrictive setting appropriate for an individual’s needs. Furthermore, individuals should be treated with dignity and respect, free from abuse or neglect, advised about alternative options, and encouraged to participate in treatment planning. Treatment or service providers should inform individuals about these rights, how to file a grievance if rights are violated, and should designate a trained Client Rights Specialist. All provider staff should understand these rights and the grievance process. Individuals should never be threated or punished for asking about their rights or filing a grievance. The rights are contained in Section 51.61 of the Wisconsin Statutes and Wisconsin Administrative Code, section DHS 94.
There are other state and federal laws that protect patient rights including those receiving care for a physical condition. These laws differ based on the type of facility (hospitals, nursing homes, residential facilities). All individuals can ask about their specific rights and how to file a complaint. The patient/client rights process described here applies to services for mental illness, developmental disability, or substance use in Wisconsin.
Do you think that your client rights have been violated? Here are steps you can take:
- Use DRW’s Do It Yourself Guide to Filing a Patient/Client Grievance to find a list of your rights, help you file a grievance, or appeal if you disagree with the first decision.
- Contact Disability Rights Wisconsin if you need help understanding your rights or the grievance process.
Clients have the right to:
- Appropriate treatment and services
- Freedom from seclusion and restraints
- Give informed consent prior to receiving treatment
- Refuse work benefiting the facility
- Confidentiality of records
- Manage funds and property
- Communicate with non-residents
- Present complaints
- Protection during discharge and transfer
We advocate for the implementation of client-directed treatments and services, as well as for community service systems that implement consumer empowerment and choice by providing a full range of community services, thereby removing incentives for institutional care. Disability Rights Wisconsin provides information, referral, advice, investigation, and, in select cases, legal representation to people with disabilities in Wisconsin who are having difficulty accessing appropriate, quality services and supports necessary to sustain community living.