The city of San Francisco is launching an investigation into the state of Nevada's mental health practices.
A Las Vegas-based psychiatric hospital is accused of busing more than 1,500 patients out of southern Nevada with no place to go.
The allegations came to light in a Sacramento Bee newspaper article.
"It's very, very disconcerting not just as a government official but as a human being," San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said.
The Sacramento Bee investigation revealed more than 1,500 patients at the Rawson Neal Psychiatric Hospital were bused out of southern Nevada between July 2008 and March 2013.
Receipts they obtained showed 500 were sent to California, and a thousand more to every other state in the continental U.S.
"It's very disconcerting when you think about these individuals given one-way tickets on a bus with no meds, minimal food and drink," Herrera said.
Herrera sent a letter to Nevada officials Monday demanding they hand over records. He says dozens of patients were sent to San Francisco and other areas with generous social services, with no contacts.
Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said Nevada's mental health system is broken and this practice is unacceptable.
"It's something that's unconscionable as far as I'm concerned. The governor and legislators should take the lead and do something on this," Sisolak said.
Sisolak said it's one thing if patients were being returned home, but this seems to be another.
"But the stories that I've heard, they put somebody on a bus with a couple cans of Ensure and a box of peanut butter crackers to get them through day. Then you're dumped out of state. That's just not acceptable. It's ridiculous. It's inhumane the thought that this could be happening," Sisolak said.
Sisolak said the county has been working to get the state to address the mental health problem, which is putting a strain on the jail and county hospital. He says 30 to 40 percent of inmates should really be mental health patients, and UMC is also receiving patients in need of mental health care because they have no place else to go.
Nevada's Director of the Department of Health and Human Services, Mike Willden, released the following statement:
"The Rawson Neal Hospital is licensed by the State of Nevada, certified by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and accredited by The Joint Commission. These bodies survey the Hospital annually, whenever there is a serious complaint and on a three year accreditation cycle. These oversight bodies have surveyed and reviewed the Hospital's policies and procedures for all rules, regulations, standards and laws pertaining to discharge planning. The Rawson Neal Hospital has maintained its high quality of certification and accreditation.
The Rawson Neal Psychiatric Hospital has policies and procedures in place that allows clinicians the mechanism to assist individuals with mental illness without resources for discharging planning out of state. This policy recognizes and respects the rights of individuals with mental illness. The policy defines the requirements for individuals to be discharged out of state as well as the requirements for the follow up care.
Nevada DHHS is reviewing the approximate 1,500 discharges that included out-of-state transportation over the past five years. The discharge being reported by the Sacramento Bee appears not to be systemic, with the failure occurring at the clinical level. The Hospital has experienced a documentation error and 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. All discharges and the discharging documentation are to be in compliance with policies, procedures, rules, regulations, standards and laws."
San Francisco's attorney said if these allegations turn out to be true, it will be suing for monetary damages.
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