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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

San Francisco launches investigation into Nevada's psychiatric 'indigent patient dumping'

City Attorney Dennis Herrera

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today announced that he has launched a formal investigation into allegations that the State of Nevada was extensively involved in "patient dumping"—busing hundreds of indigent people who suffer from mental health afflictions to out-of-state locations, including San Francisco, "with inadequate provisions of food and medication, and without prior arrangements for their care, housing or medical treatment upon arrival."

In a letter sent to the director of Nevada's Department of Health and Human Services this morning, Herrera cited a series of recent investigative reports by The Sacramento Bee that found one Las Vegas-based state psychiatric hospital alone had transported more than 1,500 mentally-ill patients by Greyhound bus to locations throughout the United States over the past five years. A third of those questionably discharged patients were bused to California cities, according to the reports, with at least 36 bus tickets to San Francisco.

Herrera's three-page letter, which is copied to Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto , demands the production of several categories of documents under Nevada's Public Records Law for examination by City Attorney investigators. Herrera is additionally inviting local non-profit and faith-based providers of services to San Francisco's homeless population to assist in the investigation, both to request that those potentially victimized by Nevada's mistreatment assist the city in gathering evidence and testimony, and also to facilitate referrals to private legal counsel for individuals whose civil rights may have been violated. City agencies including San Francisco's Department of Public Health, Human Services Agency, and Police Department are already participating in the inquiry.

"Assuming the reports are true, Nevada's practice of psychiatric 'patient dumping' is shockingly inhumane and illegal," said Herrera. "We intend to investigate these reports thoroughly, and I am inviting input from providers of services to San Francisco's homeless, who may be willing to volunteer evidence and testimony to assist the city in a potential civil action. 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. I also intend to pursue injunctive relief, including monitoring of the offending medical facilities, to send a strong message to any other state or locality that would consider similarly irresponsible public health practices."

In March, the Sacramento Bee first reported the story of 48-year-old James Flavy Coy Brown , a patient of the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas who was sent on a 15-hour bus ride to Sacramento—despite having never before visited, having no friends or family members in the area, and with no prior arrangements for his care, housing or medical treatment upon arrival. The Nevada-run hospital had discharged Brown in a taxicab to the Greyhound bus station with a one-way ticket to Sacramento, snacks, and a three-day supply of medication to treat his schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. Brown was instructed to call 911 when he arrived.

Subsequent evidence published by the Sacramento Bee this month disclosed that the hospital had similarly bused more than 1,500 patients over a period of nearly five years throughout the U.S., to locations as far away as Boston, Miami, and New York. Approximately one-third of those patients were bused to cities and towns in California. According to Brown, a Rawson-Neal physician specifically recommended "sunny California" as a destination, because they "have excellent health care and more benefits than you could ever get in Nevada."

Though the San Francisco's City Attorney's Office is prohibited from representing private individuals in legal matters, Herrera's office is working with the Bay Area legal community to facilitate private referrals for those whose civil rights may have been violated by Nevada's wrongdoing. Individuals with evidence or testimony that may assist San Francisco in its investigation are asked to contact City Attorney Investigator David Burke at david.burke@sfgov.org, or by telephone at (415) 554-4253.

Herrera's letter to Nevada officials is available on the San Francisco City Attorney's website at: http://www.sfcityattorney.org. The Sacramento Bee's investigative series on Nevada's 'patient dumping' practices is available online at: http://www.sacbee.com/leavinglasvegas/.

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