Patients' Rights

Note: If you are seeking information regarding patients’ rights for individuals residing in a County Mental Health Facility, please click here or call the California Department of Health Care Services Mental Health Ombudsman at 1-888-452-8609.

Individuals with mental health conditions who are receiving treatment in our State Hospitals are guaranteed numerous rights under State and Federal laws. Our patients are afforded the same Constitutional and Statutory rights guaranteed to all individuals, though some rights may be necessarily modified to ensure the safety and security of our patients and employees. Our Hospitals are comprised of approximately 10% civil commitments or Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) patients and 90% forensic commitments or Non-LPS patients.

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 our five State Hospitals; Atascadero, Coalinga, Metropolitan, Napa, and Patton.

Contact Information - Office of Human Rights

Department of State Hospitals
Office of Human Rights
1215 O Street, MS-24
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 654-2327

Summary of Non-LPS Patients’ Rights, Non-Deniable

(Title 9 of the California Code of Regulations, Section 883).
Non-LPS or Forensic Patients have the following rights:

  • A right to privacy, dignity, respect, and humane care.
  • A right to receive treatment for a diagnosed mental disorder that is provided in a method least restrictive of individual liberty and promotes personal independence.
  • A right to medical care and treatment for physical ailments and conditions according to accepted clinical standards and practices.
  • A right to refuse psychosurgery, electroconvulsive therapy, experimental and other hazardous procedures.
  • A right to be free from harm including abuse or neglect, and unnecessary or excessive medication, restraint, seclusion, or protective or administrative isolation. Medication, restraint, seclusion, or protective or administrative isolation shall not be used as punishment, as retaliation for filing complaints, for the convenience of staff, as a substitute for a treatment program or in quantities that interfere with the patient's treatment.
  • A right to confidential case discussions, consultation, examination, and patient records. Confidential information shall only be provided to those people providing evaluation and/or treatment or as authorized by law.
  • A right to be informed of the procedures for filing complaints and the process for appeals when complaints are not resolved to the patient's satisfaction.
  • A right to access the services of a Patients' Rights Advocate.
  • A right to confidential communications with an attorney, either through correspondence or through private consultation, during regularly scheduled visiting days and hours.
  • A right to religious freedom and practice, within the context of the environment of a secure treatment facility.
  • A right to opportunities for physical exercise and recreational activities.

*Non-LPS Patients’ Rights, Deniable for Good Cause, can be found under Title 9, California Code of Regulations, Section 884

Summary of LPS Patients’ Rights

(Welfare and Institutions Code 5325 and 5325.1)

  • A right to treatment services which promote the potential of the person to function independently. Treatment should be provided in ways that are least restrictive of the personal liberty of the individual.
  • A right to dignity, privacy, and humane care.
  • A 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.
  • 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.
  • To see and receive the services of a patient advocate who has no direct or indirect clinical or administrative responsibility for the person receiving mental health services.

The California Office of Patients’ Rights

The Department of State Hospitals contracts with a nonprofit organization, Disability Rights California (DRC) for the California Office of Patients’ Rights (COPR), to provide investigative and advocacy services to persons with mental health conditions. The COPR provides direct advocacy services to our State Hospital patients 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:

Medi-Cal Managed Care Division Ombudsman:
Telephone: 1-888-452-8609

Contact Information for 3rd Level Patients’ Rights Appeals:

Ms. Teresa Castillo
MHSD Policy Section
Telephone: 916-713-8545