SAN FRANCISCO -- The city attorney Monday announced a formal investigation into allegations that Nevada’s primary state psychiatric hospital had bused hundreds of indigent mentally ill patients out of state with few or no resources.
The allegations of patient-dumping were brought to light by the Sacramento Bee. The paper reported that at least 36 of 1,500 patients discharged by Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas over the last five years had been sent to San Francisco on Greyhound buses.
In a letter to Nevada Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden, San Francisco City Atty. Dennis Hererra sought documentation on the practice. He also called on local homeless service providers to assist in an investigation, asking them to collect information from any clients bused to the city from Nevada and to refer them to legal counsel.
“Assuming the reports are true, Nevada’s practice of psychiatric ‘patient dumping’ is shockingly inhumane and illegal,” Herrera said in a statement. “We’re prepared to litigate aggressively on behalf of San Francisco and its taxpayers to recover whatever costs or damages we’re able to identify.”
Herrera added that he plans to seek an injunction blocking the practice.
The Sacramento Bee first reported last month on a 48-year-old patient who said he had been discharged by cab to the Greyhound station with a one-way ticket to Sacramento, snacks and a three-day supply of medication to treat his schizophrenia, depression and anxiety.
The man alleged he was instructed by Rawson-Neal staff to call 911 when he arrived. He had never been to Sacramento, the paper said, had no friends or family members in the area and arrived to find that no arrangements had been made for his care, housing or medical treatment.
According to subsequent stories in the Bee, one-third of the 1,500 patients had been bused to California.
Willden released a statement Monday saying Rawson-Neal “has maintained its high quality of certification and accreditation.”
“Nevada DHHS is reviewing the approximate 1,500 discharges that included out of state transportation over the past five years,” he added, saying the practice “appears not to be systemic, with the failure occurring at the clinical level. The hospital ... has taken immediate action to put into place both a 100% review and approval of all [proposed] out of state discharges and to additionally review in-state discharges to ensure the quality of discharge planning and after care plans.”
Los Angeles officials are also probing the issue. The Bee reported that more than 200 of the Nevada psychiatric patients given bus tickets were sent to Los Angeles County. L.A. County Department of Mental Health spokeswoman Kathleen Piche said none has been identified to date, “but we have no way of knowing unless a complaint is made.”
The county’s policy allows for the return of mentally ill clients to their cities of origin or reuniting them with family but only if they are accompanied by an escort, she added.
L.A. city attorney’s spokesman Sandy Cooney said his office was “gathering information and ... trying to determine whether what we gather warrants an investigation.”