Resource: Rights for Individuals in Mental Health Facilities

It’s important to know that if you’re challenged with a mental illness you have rights, even when admitted to a mental health facility. The information below is specific to California, but other states have similar rights outlined and many can be found online.

In California’s Department of Mental Health handbook, “Rights for Individuals
in Mental Health Facilities,” you can read the rights for those voluntarily and involuntarily admitted.

What are those rights? Some highlights …

Some rights may vary depending on legal status or facility, but your rights may not be waived by your parent, guardian or conservator. You can’t be asked to waive your rights, give them up as a condition of treatment, but you can choose to not exercise a certain right.

You have the right to a patient advocate. This person has no clinical or administrative responsibility for your treatment. You have the right to contact a patients’ right advocate. The facility you are admitted to will be able to help make that contact. You have the right to speak to an advocate privately.

Need help reaching a Patients’ Rights Advocate? California Office of Patients’ Rights | 100 Howe Avenue, Suite 210N, Sacramento, California 95825 | Telephone: (916) 575-1610

You have the right to complain. Yes, you read that right. You have the right to complain about living conditions, physical or verbal abuse, and threats or acts of cruelty and to do so without punishment. These complaints should be investigated by your Patients’ Rights advocate.

You have rights when involuntarily detained. The handbook goes into detail on rights if you’re placed in a 72-hour hold, or considered a “5150.” It further details 14-day Certification for Intensive Treatment (“5250”), Re-certification for Intensive Treatment (“5260”), Additional 30-Day Hold (“5270.1”), Post-certification for Dangerousness (“5300”) and, if needed, Temporary Conservatorship. These are listed on the handbook pages 8 – 12.

You have the right to confidentiality. Your information is confidential and only specific people are allowed access to it, except under court order. You also have the right to privacy and can allow or not allow others to know of your hospitalization.

You have the right to medical treatment.  If you don’t feel well let a staff member know. You have the right to prompt medical care.

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You have the right to refuse treatment. The rights are different for each status …

 – Voluntary patients can refuse any type of medical or mental health treatment — this includes medications.

 – Involuntary patients have the right to refuse treatment as well, except in an emergency and unless a capacity hearing is held and it’s found that you don’t have the capacity to make health care choices.

 – Conservatees have gone through a process and a judge has assigned a conservator. This person has the power to make medical decisions. The conservatee doesn’t have the right to consent or refuse treatment.

 – All patients can refuse to take part in any research, refuse electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) unless a court has determined you lack the capacity to make the choice.

Note: At anytime, The United States Bill of Rights, federal and state constitution still applies even though the stigma of mental illness may make you feel otherwise.

For more detailed and additional information, read the handbook here.




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