The specific rights afforded mental health clients are addressed in different places within the law. It is important to remember that in addition to the rights listed below, being a mental health client, whether voluntary or involuntary, does not automatically negate the rights that all citizens enjoy. The following laws contain information directly pertaining to patients' rights:
(1) Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC), Division 4,5, & 6.
(2) California Administrative Code (CAC), Title 9, Article 6.
(3) California Administrative Code (CAC), Title 22.
Rights that pertain specifically to mental health clients are stated in WIC 5325 and 5325.1. They include:
- The right to wear one's own clothes.
- The right to keep and use one's own personal belongings.
- The right to keep and spend a small amount of one's own money for canteen expenses and small purchases.
- The right to see visitors each day.
- The right to have reasonable access to telephones, both to make and receive confidential calls or to have such calls made for them.
- To have ready access to letter writing materials, including stamps, and to mail and receive unopened correspondence.
- The right to refuse any type of convulsive treatment.
- The right to refuse any type of psychosurgery in which brain tissue is destroyed.
- The right to see and receive the services of a patients' rights advocate who has no direct or indirect clinical or administrative responsibility for the person receiving mental health services. WIC 5325 and CAC 862
- The right to receive materials notifying each person of his or her rights within 24 hours of admission to a facility in a language or modality in which the person may comprehend. The State Department of Mental Health furnishes copies of the Patients' Right Handbook in English, Spanish, and Chinese. The facility is responsible for supplying each patient with a copy.
- The right to receive treatment services which promote the potential of the person to function independently and which are provided in ways that are least restrictive of the individual's personal liberty.
- The right to dignity, privacy, and humane care.
- The right to be free from harm, including unnecessary or excessive physical restraint, isolation, medication, abuse, or neglect. Medication shall not be used as punishment, for the convenience of staff, as a substitute for program, or in quantities that interfere with the treatment program.
- The right to prompt medical care and treatment.
- The right to religious freedom and practice.
- The right to participate in appropriate programs of publicly supported education.
- The right to physical exercise and recreational opportunities.
- The right to be free from hazardous procedures
- The right to have one's record remain confidential (there are exceptions specified in the legislature).
- The right to not be discriminated against for filing a complaint.
- The right to have the same legal rights and responsibilities guaranteed all other persons unless specifically limited by federal or state laws or regulations.
These rights are firmly established and cannot be denied except in certain cases:
- When good cause exists.
- Some rights in #22 may be rescinded after a judicial review of an individual's case at conservatorship hearings.
- Rights may be modified slightly when a client is held in some type of correctional facility that has reached an agreement with the State Department of Mental Health.
Rights denied for any other reasons by any staff at any facility, places that person subject to a civil penalty, fines, and possible further liability for other damages in civil court.
Parents, guardians, or conservators may not waive any of the rights specified in WIC 5325.
Whenever a right is denied for good cause, in all cases, there must be a doctor's order and that this information shall be entered into the client's treatment record.