San Francisco Threatens Lawsuit over Patient Dumping

In a protest over Nevada's policy of "dumping" psychiatric patients on neighbouring states, San Francisco's City Attorney Dennis Herrara has threatened to file a lawsuit if a settlement isn't reached.   The letter which Herrara sent to Nevada Attorney General Catherine Masto accuses Nevada of discharging patients and then giving them one-way tickets to other states.   California has received hundreds of these patients, many of them with no friends or family who provide support. 

According to records subpoenaed by Herrera,  five hundred patients were dischargd from the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas and sent to California by bus.    Since 2008, more than 1,500 patients have been shipped out of the state with one-third going to California. 

In a letter which Herrera wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle,  he described the patient dumping as "inhumane and unacceptable."   "These patients were transported without escorts; without prior arrangements for a responsible party to receive them at their destination; (and) without adequate provisions of medication or food,"  he added. 

At least twenty-four patients were sent directly to San Francisco despite having no resources and, in many cases, being too mentally ill to fend for themselves.   Though the psychiatric hospital directed them to seek medical help at public health clinics as needed, they received no other guidance.   The dumping practice was brought to light when the Sacramento Bee published a story about one patient, James Flavy Coy Brown, who had been sent to Sacramento despite having no ties there and with only a three-day supply of medication for his schizophrenia.   When he reached Sacramento, Brown was forced to enter a homeless shelter and later experienced a relapse including hearing voices telling him to jump off a bridge or get himself arrested to have a place to sleep. 

In an interview with ABC News, Brown said that he had protested leaving Nevada and that he had been sent away without any of his identification, including his Social Security and Medicaid cards.   The doctor had reportedly told him "California is a really nice state.  I think you'll be happy there."    Brown has since filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on his behalf and on behalf of the estimated 1,500 other patients who had been subjected to patient dumping.     Though most of the known cases involve Rawson-Neal Hospital,  Dennis Herrara believes that other state hospitals have done the same.

"We do have reason to believe that this occurred elsewhere in Nevada,” he commented. “It would be premature to say how widespread it is in other facilities. Our investigation is continuing.”

In the meantime, hospitals and homeless shelters across California are coping with the influx of Nevada psychiatric patients who have been dumped within their borders.     According to Dennis Herrera, San Francisco has already spent approximately $500,000 on medical care and housing on these patients.   Along with recouping these costs, he also hopes for a legal injunction against further patient dumping.   In responding to Herrara,  Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval issued a statement saying "disciplinary actions have been taken and a corrective plan of action was put in place” at Rawson-Neal Hospital.   The status of the lawsuit and whether patient dumping is being allowed at other hospitals is still unclear.

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