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Mental Health Consumers’ Rights

How much do you know about your right to privacy and other aspects of your mental health care?

  • Can your employer call a mental health facility to see if you are a patient there?
  • Can a landlord ask if you’ve been hospitalized for a psychiatric illness and refuse to rent to you if you have?
  • Can your therapist show your records to a family member without your permission?
  • Can your doctor refuse to give you a copy of your medical records?

The answers are no, no, no and no.

As a patient, you have certain rights. Some are guaranteed by federal law, such as the right to get a copy of your medical records, and the right to keep them private. Many states have additional laws protecting patients, and healthcare facilities often have a patient bill of rights.

Laws and policies give you protection over who can use and how they can use your medical information. Three of these are HIPPA, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Mental Health Patient’s Bill of Rights.

HIPAA: The Federal Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act of 1996 protects the privacy of your health information gives you rights over your health information and sets rules and limits on who can look at. and receive, your health records.

ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that people with disabilities, such as severe mental illness, have legal protection against discrimination in the workplace, housing and residential settings (including treatment facilities such as hospitals), public programs, and telecommunications.

Mental Health Patient’s Bill of Rights from the American Psychological Association provides principles regarding privacy rights, treatment and grievance procedures.

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