Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Learning the Hard Way

Yesterday, news broke of San Francisco launching a probe into Nevada's habit of dumping mental health patients into other states, most notably California. Today, San Francisco has company. The City of Los Angeles is launching its own probe into Nevada patient dumping.

View more videos at: http://nbclosangeles.com.

Los Angeles officials are investigating reports that Nevada’s primary state psychiatric hospital bused indigent mentally ill patients with few or no resources to California cities.

Spokesman Sandy Cooney said the L.A. city attorney's office was “gathering information and ... trying to determine whether what we gather warrants an investigation.”

The Sacramento Bee reported last month that more than 200 Nevada psychiatric patients were given bus tickets and sent to Los Angeles County after their release from hospitals. [...]

Los Angeles’ inquiry follows the San Francisco city attorney office’s announcement Monday that it had launched a formal investigation into the allegations against Nevada’s facility.

The Bee was the first to bring the allegations of so-called "patient dumping" to light. The paper reported that at least 36 of 1,500 patients discharged by Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas over the last five years had been sent to San Francisco on Greyhound buses.

San Francisco is now requesting documents from Nevada. And pretty soon, Los Angeles will be doing the same. And they may yet have more company. Ever since The Sacramento Bee first noticed the story of James Flavy Coy Brown, this scandal has been steadily growing. And now, it's threatening accreditation and federal funding for Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital, the state's only public mental health treatment hospital in Southern Nevada. Ironically enough, what's likely been clumsy state effort to cut corners and cut costs may end up costing the state far more.

Yesterday, Nevada Mental Health Services Director Mike Willden went on "Ralston Reports" to defend the actions of his staff and Governor Brian Sandoval's (R-Denial) office. Well, he tried. What else could he say?

That's the problem. What else can we say? How is this even defensible? Who can condone the dumping of human beings somewhere else, and do so just because their needed treatment "costs too much"?

Again, the ultimate irony here is that Nevada may very well pay far more now. We didn't have to fall into this mess. We could have just done the right thing, cared for our own, sent those who requested to go to places where care was already lined up... And saved ourselves this lurid legal fiasco.

Ultimately, cutting corners and ripping the social safety net to shreds don't make for good public policy. We're now learning this lesson the hard way. But really, we didn't have to.

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