Patient Rights

All patients have the same constitutional and statutory rights guaranteed all other individuals by the federal and state constitution and human rights of the patients. The Advocate promotes the delivery of quality treatment services, while optimizing the patient's opportunity to exercise his rights.

Summary of Patient Rights

Some of DSH’s hospitals are maximum security facilities, which means that certain legal rights are restricted in those locations but not in others. These are in bold.

  • A right to treatment services.
  • A right to dignity, privacy, and humane care.
  • A right to prompt medical care and treatment.
  • A right to religious freedom and practice.
  • A right to participate in appropriate programs of publicly supported education.
  • A right to social interaction and participation in community activities. Patients in maximum security facilities are allowed in general patient access areas within the secured perimeters of the hospital, but not outside of it.
  • A right to physical exercise and recreational opportunities.
  • A right to be free from hazardous procedures.
  • To wear one's own clothes. Patients in maximum security are required to wear hospital-issued clothing.
  • To keep and use one's own personal possessions, including toiletry articles.
  • To keep in their hospital account an unlimited amount of funds for canteen purchases and miscellaneous expenses. A Bar Code Identification System is used for patients in maximum security to obtain access to their funds for canteen purchases only.
  • To have access to individual storage space for the patient's private use.
  • To see visitors each day. To have reasonable access to telephones, both to make and receive confidential calls.
  • To have ready access to letter writing materials, including stamps, and to mail and receive unopened correspondence.
  • To refuse convulsive treatment including, but not limited to, any electroconvulsive treatment, any treatment of the mental condition which depends on the induction of a convulsion by any means, and insulin coma treatment.
  • To refuse psychosurgery.

The California Department of State Hospitals (DSH) administers an Office of Human Rights to ensure that mental health laws, regulations, and policies for the rights of mental health service recipients are observed in State Hospitals and licensed health and community care facilities.

Californians with mental illnesses who are receiving treatment in mental health facilities, including those persons subject to involuntary commitment, are guaranteed numerous rights under State and federal laws, including the right to be free from abuse and neglect, the right to privacy, dignity, and humane care, and the right to basic procedural protections in the commitment process.

The Department of State Hospitals is required to enter a multi-year contract with a nonprofit organization, the Office of Patients' Rights (OPR), to provide investigative and advocacy services to persons with mental disabilities. The OPR also provides direct advocacy services in the state hospitals as well as training and technical assistance to all county patients' rights advocates.

New County Contact Information For Patients' Rights Issues

The California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) is now the appropriate department for county mental health facilities, licensed under the Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Act, to contact with non-State Hospital issues. These issues include, but are not limited to:

  • Ordering LPS patients’ rights handbooks and posters;
  • Patients’ rights assistance for patients being treated in local mental health facilities;
  • Issues regarding electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) performed at the county level, and
  • Resolution of 3rd Level county patients’ rights appeals.

Contact Information for Patients’ Rights Handbooks and Posters (Ordering and Submission of Order Forms):

Department of Health Care Services
MS 2702
P.O. Box 997413
Sacramento, CA 95899-7413
Telephone: 916-322-7445
Download Link: Handbooks and Posters or Find a Publications Order Form

Contact Information for Patients’ Rights Questions and ECT Issues:

Mental Health Services Division Ombudsman:
Telephone: 1-800-896-4042
TTY Line: 1-800-896-2512

Contact Information for 3rd Level Patients’ Rights Appeals:

Ms. Alexa Malik
MHSD Policy Section
Telephone: 916-319-9743