Client Rights - Confidentiality of Treatment Records

Anyone who is receiving services for developmental disability, mental health, or substance use in Wisconsin has the right to have their treatment information kept confidential. Client Rights Office staff have developed a document which explains confidentiality (PDF, 93 KB) as it relates to treatment services.

Law and code

There also are federal regulations regarding the confidentiality of protected health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).  HIPAA regulations differ in some ways from Wisconsin laws and rules. In general, federal laws and rules trump state laws and rules.  However, where they conflict, the rule that is most protective of the client's rights prevails.

Penalties

There are serious civil and criminal penalties for records and confidentiality violations.

Disclosing confidential information: Civil penalties

Negligently

Actual damages plus exemplary damages up to $1,000 per violation plus attorney fees

Knowingly and willfully

Actual damages plus exemplary damages up to $25,000 per violation plus attorney fees

Disclosing confidential information: Criminal penalties

Negligently

Fine up to $1,000

Knowing it is unlawful

Fine up to $25,000 and up to nine months in jail

For pecuniary gain

Fine up to $100,000 and up to 3½ years in prison

Records violations: Criminal penalties

Requesting or obtaining records under false pretenses

Fine up to $25,000 and up to nine months in jail

Disclosing someone’s HIV status: Civil penalties

Unintentionally

Actual damages plu exemplary damages up to $2,000 plus attorney fees

Intentionally

Actual damages plus exemplary damages up to $50,000 plus attorney fees

Disclosing someone’s HIV status: Criminal penalties

Negligently with resulting harm to the individual

Fine up to $50,000 and up to nine months in jail

Intentionally for pecuniary gain

Fine up to $200,000 and up to 3 ½ years in prison

Negligently

Fine up to $2,000

Last Revised: June 1, 2016