Introduction to Client Rights
Applies to: Anyone who is receiving services for mental illness, a developmental disability, or substance abuse in the state of Wisconsin.
Brief History of Client Rights in Wisconsin: A 1972 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision, entitled Lessard v. Schmidt, set forth the rights of mental health patients.
These rights were adopted into state law with the creation of Wisc. Stats. 51 (State Alcohol, Drug Abuse, Developmental Disability and Mental Health Act) subsections 51.61 and 51.30 (exit DHS; PDF) in 1976.
The law required the Department of Health and Social Services (now the Department of Health Services) to create administrative rules for a grievance procedure to ensure patient rights.
The Department created the Client Rights Office (CRO) to oversee the development of administrative rules and the grievance process.
CRO staff drafted administrative rules to implement patient rights and confidentiality. These were adopted as Wisconsin Administrative Codes:
The original grievance process rules permitted counties to "opt into" the state’s process or have their own procedure. Counties were mandated to use the state's grievance process by changes in DHS 94, Wisconsin Administrative Code, in 1997.
Subchapter III of DHS 94 (exit DHS, PDF) sets forth the grievance procedure rules for people receiving services in the community. A simplified flow chart of the Community Grievance Resolution Procedures Process is available. (PDF, 19 KB)
Now all community grievance procedures must allow for an appeal to the State Grievance Examiner (SGE) in the department’s Client Rights Office. The SGE issues a Level III grievance decision.
If either party to the complaint is not happy with the results, they can appeal to Level IV of the process, which is the Administrator of the department’s Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (DMHSAS).
The following is a brief summary of the rights of patients under Section 51.61, Wisconsin Statutes, and DHS 94, Wisconsin Administrative Code.
TREATMENT RIGHTS - Every patient has the right to:
RECORD PRIVACY AND ACCESS - (See also Confidentiality of Treatment Records)
COMMUNICATION RIGHTS - Every (in)patient has the right to:
PERSONAL RIGHTS - Every (in)patient has the right to:
PRIVACY RIGHTS - Every (in)patient has the right to:
MISCELLANEOUS RIGHTS - Every patient has the right to:
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Last Updated: February 18, 2013