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Applies to: Anyone who is receiving services for mental illness, a developmental disability, or substance abuse on an outpatient basis in the state of Wisconsin, other than from a state-operated facility.

Patients receiving such services have rights under Sec. 51.61, Wisconsin Statutes (exit DHS, PDF - scroll to page 50), and DHS 94, Wisconsin Administrative Code (exit DHS, PDF).

Their rights are explained in a brochure entitled Client Rights and the Grievance Procedure for Community Services (PDE-3112) that is given to patients when they begin receiving services.

Each treatment provider also should have a poster (PDE-3126) listing patientsí rights. (See Forms, Publications and Posters.)

OUTPATIENT MENTAL HEALTH CLINICS: The Legislature has adopted DHS 35, rules for outpatient mental health clinics. They can be found at: 

Any patient, or anyone on behalf of the patient, may file a complaint if they feel the patientís rights have been violated. Any complaints must be filed with the facility within 45 calendar days of the event involved or the patient becoming aware of the issue.

We recommend you put your complaint in writing, but verbal complaints are also allowed. The Client Rights Specialist (CRS) will put any oral complaint in writing so it is clear. To find out the name of the facilityís or service provider's CRS, contact the facility or service provider directly.

The community grievance procedure (PDF, 7 KB) has a multi-level process which depends on who is paying for the patientís services. If the services are through the county or through a county-contracted or approved provider, the county has a role in the grievance process.

Service providers that do not have a grievance procedure or that need to update their process may use the Model Grievance Procedure and adapt it to their needs.

All community grievance procedures must provide for an appeal to the State Grievance Examiner (SGE) in the departmentís Client Rights Office. The SGE issues Level III grievance decisions.

If either party to the complaint is not happy with the results, they can appeal to Level IV of the process Ė which is the Administrator of the departmentís Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

The rules of the community grievance procedure are set forth in Subchapter III of DHS 94, Wisconsin Administrative Code (exit DHS, PDF).

Complaints of rights violations may also be taken directly to court under Sec. 51.61(7), Wisconsin Statutes (exit DHS, PDF - scroll to page 54).

The use of the grievance procedure is not required before going to court, but a grievance can be dismissed at the stage it is being considered once the matter is taken to court.

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Last Updated: July 07, 2014