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Advancing the Human & Civil Rights of People with Disabilities in Illinois



Rights in Institutions


The Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disability Code (MHDD Code) protects the rights of people in a variety of mental health and developmental disability institutions and programs. The MHDD Code says you have the right:

  • To be free from abuse and neglect
  • To receive adequate and humane care in the least restrictive environment that is appropriate for your care and treatment
  • To have an individual treatment plan, which must be put into writing and periodically reviewed
  • To participate in creating the treatment plan and review of that plan (if feasible)
  • To have your guardian, other legal representative, substitute decision-maker or any other person whose name you provide in writing to participate in preparing the treatment plan

Institutions and programs should always inform people with disabilities about their rights in a way and with language that is accessible to them, including information about how to enforce their rights and what to do if they think their rights have been violated. If you have questions about your rights, contact us.

See Rights in Mental Health Facilities Fact Sheet for more information.

For detailed information about your rights, see Rights in Institutions Overview and Rights in Institutions Resources.

Also, the Illinois Legal Aid Online has a Disabilities Guidebook with a chapter on the Rights of Recipients of Mental Health and Developmental Disability Services 

You have the right to refuse medication, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and any other mental health service.  Depending on the circumstances, a provider or any person over 18 can file a petition with the court to require that you accept the treatment or medication, and the court will decide. In addition, in instances where you are an imminent risk of harm to yourself or others, the provider may administer medication against your wishes according to specific guidelines.  Contact EFE if you have additional questions regarding your situation.

For more information on your rights during the hearing, see Involuntary Treatment in Mental Health Facilities in Illinois Fact Sheet

You can start with educating yourself about your diagnosis and the facility, agency or program where you are receiving services.

  • Become familiar with your treatment team, physicians, social worker or patient advocate.
  • Participate in meetings related to your care.
  • Keep copies of all important paperwork, and be sure to read all correspondence from your treatment team.
  • Ask someone to explain if you don’t understand something or have questions about a document.
  • Become familiar with any internal complaint or grievance process the facility or program has to address concerns related to services or your rights.
  • Know where to report abuse, neglect or exploitation.

For more guidance on how to advocate for your rights in a mental health facility, see the Mental Health Self-Advocacy Fact Sheet

Sometimes the hospital’s internal grievance procedure is the best solution. For more information regarding a hospital’s internal grievance procedure, contact the hospital directly. You can also contact the Illinois Department of Health at  to file a complaint against the hospital.  Another option is to file a complaint with the Joint Commission if the hospital is a Joint Commission accredited hospital.  You can make a complaint to the Joint Commission through its website:

 Contact us if you have questions or need help filing a complaint.

If you want to be discharged, you can work with your treatment team to develop a discharge plan. Without a court order or a guardian’s stated desire that you remain in a facility, the facility cannot hold you beyond a specified number of days. The number of days depends on the type of setting where you are receiving services. In addition, there may be avenues to challenge a guardian’s decision if it is not in your best interest.  If you have a Personal Assistance Services agent, you can work with the PAS agent to find a living arrangement that meets your needs.  If you have questions about your individual situation, contact us.

Depending on the type of facility or program involved, you often have a right to know the reason for the discharge as well as your appeal rights. Depending on the type of discharge and the type of facility or program, you may have the right to remain in the facility or program during the appeal process.  If you have questions, contact EFE regarding your specific situation.

For more information on your discharge rights, see Involuntary Discharge from Long-Term Care Facilities in Illinois Fact Sheet.

To address mistreatment in jails or prisons, you must first file an internal grievance with the jail or prison. You should ask for help from your counselor at the prison if you do not already know the grievance procedure or if you do not have a grievance form.

We have limited resources to provide individual representation for jail or prison mistreatment, as we have two class-action lawsuits against the Illinois Department of Corrections:

  • Rasho v. Walker seeks improved psychiatric treatment and equal rights for prisoners with serious mental illness.
  • Holmes v. Godinez seeks accommodations for prisoners who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Once these cases are resolved, we hope to turn our attention to prisoners with other types of disabilities.

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Last updated: March 07, 2016

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