The information listed here applies to individuals under 18 years of age receiving services for mental health, substance use, or a developmental disability in Wisconsin.
Rights of minors
Client rights pamphlets for minors
- Rights of Children and Adolescent Patients in Inpatient Mental Health Facilities (PDF) (English only)
- Rights of Minors in Inpatient Community Mental Health Facilities (Multiple languages available)
- Rights of Children and Adolescents in Outpatient Mental Health Treatment (Multiple languages available)
Mental Health Review Officer process
Wisconsin juvenile courts are required to appoint a Mental Health Review Officer (MHRO) to review the outpatient mental health treatment of minors age 14 or older. (Wis. Stat. § 51.14) Outpatient mental health treatment means treatment and social services for mental illness, except 24-hour care, treatment, and custody.
Filing petition for review by MHRO
A minor 14 or older (or someone on their behalf) can petition the MHRO in the county where the minor’s parent/guardian resides for a review of the refusal of the minor’s parent/guardian to provide informed consent for outpatient mental health treatment. For a minor whose consent for treatment was provided by a parent/guardian despite the minor’s refusal, the treatment director of the outpatient clinic must file a petition for review of the informed consent by the MHRO. A petition must attach any professional evaluations and contain:
- The name, address, and birth date of the minor.
- Names and addresses of minor’s parents or guardian.
- Facts substantiating the petitioner’s belief that the minor needs or does not need outpatient mental health treatment.
- Any available information substantiating the appropriateness of the treatment sought and that is the least restrictive treatment consistent with the minor’s needs.
The court must ensure that any “necessary assistance” is provided to the petitioner. The MHRO must inform the county. The county may make recommendations to the MHRO as to the need for, appropriateness, and availability of outpatient mental health treatment. If the minor requests and the MHRO determines it is in the minor’s best interests, a petition for a court review (skipping the MHRO) can be filed.
Hearing by MHRO
Within 21 days of the filing, the MHRO must hold a hearing on the refusal or inability of the minor’s parent/guardian to provide consent or the provision of such consent despite the minor’s refusal. There must be 96 hours prior notice of the hearing.
MHRO hearing outcomes
If, following the hearing, and taking into account any county recommendations, the MHRO finds all of the following, the MHRO can “overrule” the informed consent requirements of state law.
- The informed consent of the parent/guardian is unreasonably withheld or the refusal of the minor to consent is unreasonable.
- The minor is in need of treatment.
- The treatment sought is appropriate and least restrictive.
- The proposed treatment is in the best interests of the minor.
The findings of the MHRO must be in writing. The minor and parent/guardian must be informed of the right to judicial review. No one who has provided treatment or services to the minor may act as the MHRO for that minor.
Within 21 days after the MHRO’s ruling (or if the MHRO’s review was skipped, as noted above), the minor (or someone on the minor’s behalf) may petition a court under Wis. Stat. chs. 48 or 938 (in the county where the parent/guardian resides) for a judicial review. The same requirements as noted above apply to this petition. If the minor has refused to provide consent, that must be noted on the face of the petition. If such a notation is made, the court must appoint counsel for the minor at least seven days prior to the hearing. If it is the parent/guardian who refused consent and the minor is unrepresented, the court must appoint counsel for the minor. The hearing must be held within 21 days after the petition is filed. The hearing must be noticed at least 96 hours in advance. The rules of civil evidence apply. A record, including written findings of fact and conclusions of law, must be kept. Findings must be based on evidence that is clear, satisfactory, and convincing.
Judicial hearing outcomes
If, following the hearing, and taking into account any county recommendations, the court finds all of the following, the court can “overrule” the informed consent requirements of state law.
- The informed consent is unreasonably withheld.
- The minor is in need of treatment.
- The particular treatment sought is appropriate and least restrictive.
- The treatment is in the best interests of the minor The finding or order made by the court is not a finding of mental illness.
Anyone aggrieved and directly affected by the court’s determination may appeal to the Court of Appeals.