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State Investigates Patient Privacy Rights At Milwaukee Mental Health Complex


A state investigation into a group that advocates for the disabled has turned into an issue in the Wisconsin governor’s race.

The probe is looking at whether the group Disability Rights Wisconsin violated patient privacy rights when it distributed a report from a psychiatrist who wrote about four deaths at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex. The author used patient records provided by Disability Rights Wisconsin.

Milwaukee County officials asked for the state probe, and Gov. Scott Walker, who had management problems at the complex when he was Milwaukee County executive, agreed to the review. Walker bristles, however, at the suggestion he’s going after Disability Rights Wisconsin.

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“That’s a complete mis-statement of the facts,” Walker said.

“The reality is that all we did was get a request from Milwaukee County’s corporation counsel that made a request about that particular organization, and I asked the legal counsel in the Department of Health Services to review that request…

“When we’ve got a governmental body making that request, it’s incumbent on us to at least research that and to make a finding,” he continued.

The state could eventually try to revoke Disability Rights Wisconsin’s status as official patient protection and advocacy agency. Federal grant money to the group could be jeopardized.

The Walker administration’s probe is getting heat from a variety of critics, including Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke.

“It certainly seems like it is looking at a group that has maybe has uncovered some information that was being withheld,” Burke said.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had already written about the psychiatrist’s report, before the report was distributed.