San Francisco Sues Nevada over Dumping of Mentally Ill

Monday, September 16, 2013
(photo: Family Court Chronicles)

A Nevada psychiatric hospital accused of busing its patients off to other states faces legal action filed by San Francisco.

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital of Las Vegas allegedly dumped 1,500 mental patients onto other states by giving them one-way bus fare out of Nevada.

About 500 of the patients were sent to California, including 24 who showed up in San Francisco. Like other cities that received the individuals suffering from mental health disorders, San Francisco was forced to spend its own resources (about $500,000) to care for the patients. The lawsuit seeks a half million dollars to cover the city’s expenses.

The city claims “virtually all” of the patients dumped in California required continuing medical care, something the Nevada hospital failed to arrange for. The complaint also notes that “many of these patients were not California residents” at the time they were discharged and put on buses.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of all local governments in California, said in a prepared statement: “Homeless psychiatric patients are especially vulnerable to the kind of practices Nevada engaged in, and the lawsuit I've filed today is about more than just compensation—it's about accountability.”

Herrera added that the hospital’s actions were “horribly wrong on two levels: it cruelly victimizes a defenseless population, and punishes jurisdictions for providing health and human services that others won’t provide. It’s my hope that the class action we’re pursuing against Nevada will be a wake-up call to facilities nationwide that they, too, risk being held to account if they engage in similarly unlawful conduct.”

The dumping first came to the attention of authorities, according to Herrera, after the Sacramento Bee documented the plight of Flavy Coy Brown in March. The 48-year-old Rawson-Neal patient was discharged from the facility in February and sent by cab to a Greyhound station, where he was put on a bus for a 15-hour trip to Sacramento. He had never been to the city and had no friends or relatives there.

The hospital had given Brown a one-way ticket and three days worth of meds for his schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. He was told to call 911 upon arriving at his destination, a bit of advice that, according to the lawsuit, was not given to a substantial number cut loose by the hospital.

“A substantial number were not provided any instruction or assistance in finding shelter, continued medical care, or basic necessities in the cities and counties to which they were sent,” the suit states.

San Francisco traced the dumping back to at least 2008, and said of the 24 patients they were aware of coming their way, “20 required medical care shortly after their arrival . . . some within mere hours of getting off the bus.”

Nevada denies any wrongdoing. Linda C. Anderson, chief deputy attorney general at the Nevada attorney general’s office, sent a letter to Herrera’s office last week along with  documents requested by Herrera’s office that she said “demonstrate that the policies are appropriate and that proper discharges were made.”

“You made a demand for approximately $500,000 but you fail to provide details to support your claim including how you identified the 20 patients,” the letter said. “Moreover, you do not provide sufficient explanation of your legal theory or standing for the initiation of a lawsuit by you on behalf of the ‘affected California cities and counties.’”

 –Noel Brinkerhoff

To Learn More:

S.F. Says Nevada Is Dumping Mental Patients (by Jonny Bonner, Courthouse News Service)

S.F. Sues to Recoup Costs for Patients 'Dumped' by Nevada Hospital (by Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times)

San Francisco Makes Good on Its Threat to Sue Nevada in Patient Busing Scandal (by Andrew Doughman, Las Vegas Sun)

Nevada officials: Evidence “Insufficient” in San Francisco’s Patient-Dumping Claims (by Yesenia Amaro, Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Nevada’s Solution to Mentally Disturbed . . . Ship Them to California and Other States (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

City and County of San Francisco v. State of Nevada et al (San Francisco County Superior Court)

Leave a comment