Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas is Nevada's primary state hospital for the mentally ill. / Nevada Public Works Board
Faced with deep budget cuts, Nevada's main public psychiatric hospital has bused more than 1,500 patients from Las Vegas to other states during the past five years, a Sacramento Bee investigation has found.
Some patients apparently had no family in or connections to the 176 cities in 45 states where Greyhound buses deposited them after one-way trips from Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital. About one third wound up in California.
Last year, about 400 patients - more than one a day - were dispatched, according bus receipts kept by the state's mental health division.
Officials in 10 states said their regulations forbid sending mentally ill patients somewhere with no means of support. None recalled being contacted by the Nevada hospital beforehand.
At a legislative hearing last month, Nevada's health officer, Dr. Tracey Green, defended the practice, known as dumping. She insisted that "the vast majority of patients they are discharging to the Main Street bus station are mentally stable and have family members, treatment programs or both waiting for them at the end of their rides," the Bee writes.
The state's actions came under scrutiny in February after 48-year-old James Flavy Coy Brown, who is diagnosed with schizophrenia, turned up at a Sacramento homeless shelter confused and suicidal. He had never been to the California capital and knew no one.
His papers from Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services read: "Discharge to Greyhound bus station by taxi with 3 day supply of medication" and provided a vague suggestion for further treatment: "Follow up with medical doctor in California." Brown said staff at Rawson-Neal advised him to call 911 when he arrived in Sacramento.
Nevada Health and Human Services Director Michael Willden testified at the March hearing that mental health officials "blew it" in how Brown was handled, but that an internal investigation found no pattern of misconduct.
The State Health Division, however, sampled cases in February and found other instances of mentally ill patients who were wrongly discharged from the 190-bed facility. The Bee said it, too, found other apparent violations.
Read the Bee's complete investigation, "Leaving Las Vegas."
One happy ending: Brown has been reunited with his daughter and her family, who live in North Carolina.
Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com
Read the original story: Nev. buses 1,500 mental patients out of state since '08