With fewer dollars to spend on psychiatric services, the state of Nevada decided one way to handle mentally ill patients is to make them some other state’s problem.
For at least five years, Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas—the state’s primary care facility for mental patients—has shipped hundreds of individuals via Greyhound bus to cities and towns across the U.S.
In some cases, the mentally ill had no one waiting for them when they arrived at their destination.
The investigation by the Sacramento Bee found that Nevada has transported more than 1,500 patients since July 2008 to various places. About a third wound up in California, including more than 200 in Los Angeles County, about 70 in San Diego County and 19 in the city of Sacramento. Last year alone, nearly 400 patients were bused out to a total of 176 cities and 45 states across the U.S.
The busing tactic coincided with the state’s decision to slash funding for mental health services. Between 2009 and 2012, Nevada cut mental health spending by 28%. Prior to those cuts, the state’s funding for those services was already well below the national average.
Nevada mental health officials told the Bee that they are not sorry for their busing policy, saying the vast majority of patients were mentally stable when they were shipped out and that they had family members, treatment programs or both waiting for them.
That was not the case for James Flavy Coy Brown, a man suffering from mood disorders including schizophrenia who was bused to Sacramento, where he found himself without medication or identification, and no one to help him.
“I'm embarrassed to say that this practice was going on to this degree under my leadership,” Stuart Ghertner, former director of Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, told the Bee. “I had no idea. It just never came up.”