Client Rights

Client Rights Training Opportunities


Introduction: The term "client" means anyone in Wisconsin who is:

  • Receiving services for mental illness, a developmental disability, or substance abuse
  • Or receiving protective services or is protectively placed under Ch. 55, Wis. Stats.
  • (Note: Prison and jail inmates are not served by the Client Rights Office.)

Individuals receiving the services noted above retain all their rights, no matter what setting they are in.

Some rights, however, are more applicable to inpatient (residential) settings –such as the rights to make phone calls and see visitors. These rights apply to all residential settings, regardless of who operates them or who pays for the services the individual receives.

"Outpatients" (individuals receiving services while living in their own homes, for instance) presumably can make phone calls or see visitors whenever they want.

Anyone receiving such services has "patient rights" guaranteed to them under Wisconsin laws and rules. To see the actual laws and rules, go to:

For more information about these client rights, see Introduction to Client Rights.

Individuals other than those receiving services for mental illness, a developmental disability or substance abuse also have rights.

For more information, see Nursing Homes and Health Care.

If your concern is about rights of patients receiving health care services from a hospital, you are encouraged to contact the hospital in question for more information.

See Wisconsin Health Care Providers for information on filing complaints against hospitals.

Certain rights for inpatients may be limited or denied for treatment, management or security reasons. See the Client Rights Limitation or Denial process for further information.

In addition, individuals receiving the services noted above have the right to have their treatment information kept confidential. See Confidentiality of Treatment Records for more information about that topic.

Other topics related to Client Rights:

The rights and / or the grievance procedure to follow to ensure those rights may vary, depending on the treatment provider. The following sites are specific to those treatment settings:

The Community Grievance Decision Digest contains summaries of relevant laws and decisions made via the State Grievance Examiner in the Client Rights Office and the Administrator of the Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Forms, publications and posters related to client rights are available.

Information on non-Wisconsin residents who are emergency detained.

If you have a complaint or concern about the rights of an individual receiving services for mental illness, developmental disabilities or substance abuse, you should contact the service provider directly.

  • Each such provider is required to have a Client Rights Specialist (CRS) who responds to such complaints and concerns.

If the service provider does not have a CRS, contact the county where the service provider operates. If there is no county involvement with the service provider, contact the State Grievance Examiner in the Client Rights Office for more information.

Mediation. If you are interested in mediating a dispute about a client rights issue, see the information about mediation services offered by the Client Rights Office.

Last Revised: July 27, 2015