Client Rights

women with downs syndrome painting at community centerIndividuals who receive services for mental illness, substance abuse, or developmental disability in Wisconsin have rights specifically created by state law for their protection. These rights are intended to assure that treatment will be provided in the least restrictive setting appropriate for an individual’s needs. Furthermore, services are to be provided in a humane, caring environment where respect for each individual will be recognized. In part the law which provides for these rights was enacted to establish standards by which service providers would operate their programs. The law also establishes ways for individuals to enforce their rights when they believe a service provider’s actions do not meet legal requirements. The rights are contained in Section 51.61 of the Statutes and an accompanying Administrative Code, HFS 94.

Recently enacted federal law and regulations also provide rights in the areas of freedom from abuse, use of seclusion and restraints, participation in treatment planning and privacy. These measures only apply to certain facilities, such as hospitals and residential facilities for children.

Clients have the right to:

  • Information
  • Appropriate treatment and services
  • Freedom from seclusion and restraints
  • Give informed consent prior to receiving treatment
  • Refuse work benefitting the facility
  • Confidentiality of records
  • Manage funds and property
  • Communicate with non-residents
  • Privacy
  • Present complaints
  • Protection during discharge and transfer


We advocate for the implementation of client-directed treatments and services, as well as for community service systems that implement consumer empowerment and choice by providing a full range of community services, thereby removing incentives for institutional care. Disability Rights Wisconsin provides information, referral, advice, investigation, and, in select cases, legal representation to people with disabilities in Wisconsin who are having difficulty accessing appropriate, quality services and supports necessary to sustain community living.


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