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Allegations of "patient dumping" puts Nevada at odds with other states

Katie Crowther

Allegations of "patient dumping" puts Nevada at odds with other states

CREATED Apr. 22, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Nevada is under fire for allegedly putting hundreds of mentally ill patients on buses and sending them to cities around the country. Now, one city is fighting back.

"The letter that we sent today puts Nevada on notice that we want information," says San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. "We reserve the right to utilize everything in our disposal within the legal system to make sure my city, and its taxpayers, are protected. It's unacceptable to pawn off your most vulnerable on other cities."

Herrera is demanding answers from Nevada's governor and attorney general. He's also threatening legal action after dozens of people suffering from mental illness were reportedly bused to the Bay Area from Las Vegas.

Herrera has asked for a formal investigation into what he calls "psychiatric patient dumping" by Nevada's Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas.

A recent report in the Sacramento Bee newspaper, revealed that in the past five years more than 1,500 mentally ill patients at Rawson-Neal were allegedly given one-way tickets on Greyhound buses to other cities and towns.

At least one mentally ill patient from Rawson-Neal was sent to every state in the continental U.S. About a third of the patients were bused to California.

The report alleges that one of those patients turned up confused and suicidal at a homeless shelter in Sacramento.

According to the report, mentally ill patients in Las Vegas were sent with little to no food, water, money or medication. Also missing, in many cases, was a plan for future care.

But, Nevada State Health Officer Dr. Tracey Green adamantly denies that.

"We don't just put people on buses and dump them, " she says. "Every time I hear that I cringe. This is about an isolated documentation error. Not about a systematic error. That's not our statewide policy. That's not how we treat people here. We try to give the best possible care here in Nevada and every patient has different needs."

Green points out that Rawson Neal admitted 31,000 patients during the five years in question. She says the vast majority of those being discharged are mentally stable and have family, treatment programs, or both waiting at the end of their bus rides.

Rawson-Neal psychiatric hospital claims to have implemented a new patient discharge policy.

Governor Brian Sandoval met with state leaders Monday to discuss the issue. Last week, he toured Rawson-Neal and spoke with administrators there.

We received this statement from his press secretary, Mary-Sarah Kinner:

"Las Vegas is a world renowned tourist destination that attracts tens of millions of individuals from across the United States and the world yearly. As the 24/7 psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas, Rawson-Neal regularly treats patients who reside outside of Nevada. Once a patient is stable, Rawson-Neal provides patients assistance in returning to the home of the patient’s choice, as is the patient’s right and which most patients choose to do.  
When the Department of Health and Human Services became aware that procedures were not followed, the department voluntarily undertook three, separate, self-initiated investigations -- two of which are now complete. Throughout the investigation process, the governor received regular briefings from the director of health and human services. On Friday, the governor toured the five-star, accredited Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital and spoke with the hospital’s administrator extensively.
In addition to disciplinary actions that have occurred at Rawson-Neal, a corrective plan of action was put in place and posted to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services’ website weeks ago. The governor supports the new strengthened discharge procedures and is committed to continuing to treat patients with a high level of care in a safe, modern, accredited facility."