Friday, April 26, 2013

Problem Solved? (Hell, No!)

Earlier this week, we learned of even more Nevada patient dumping stories. One involved a woman named Monica. She had been receiving mental health treatment at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas. But of course, she was dumped onto a Greyhound bus bound for Orange County, California, despite (or because?!) needing more treatment. Monica was just dumped onto a Greyhound bus and into Orange County with no home and no treatment plan. And now, Orange County health officials are on a desperate search for Monica.

And she's not alone. Also this week, KVVU/Fox 5 uncovered the story of a former Rawson-Neal patient who was dumped into California. She described herself what happened when she was first admitted to Rawson-Neal in 2004... And when she was admitted again in 2008.

FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

"They don't realize we're people too," said [Tina] Schmidt. "We have a heart. It hurts because we feel like we are being thrown away like trash."

Schmidt got emotional recalling her treatment at Rawson-Neal. She was admitted in 2004 for attempted suicide and depression. Schmidt said the hospital bused and left her in San Diego because it didn't have enough resources. She didn't know anyone there.

"They act like they just don't care," said Schmidt. "It's like 'You're not my problem. I don't want to deal with you. Let's just send you someplace else.'"

Schmidt said it happened again when she returned in 2008. Last month, the Sacramento Bee revealed as many as 1,500 patients were improperly discharged from the state-run hospital.

So this has been happening for even longer than some thought. And it sheds even more doubt on Governor Brian Sandoval's (R-Denial) assertion that the improper discharge of James Flavy Coy Brown from Rawson-Neal this past February was a mostly isolated incident. Think about it. Sandoval and Nevada Department of Health & Human Services Director Mike Willden have claimed "only 5 or 6" of the 1,500 patient dumping cases from 2008-2013 were actually improper. Yet despite their assertions, more disturbing cases continue to surface.

Oh, and here's another one. But in the case of Rodrick Hicks, Rawson-Neal didn't even bother to get him a Greyhound ticket. This time, the hospital just threw him a RTC bus pass.

Rodrick Hicks was found by Nevada Highway patrol last week. The 18-year-old was walking barefoot on Interstate 15, near Flamingo Road. He was taken to a hospital, which transferred him to the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric facility. What happened next has his mother outraged.

"My child was out there somewhere," says Shannon Hicks. "Rawson-Neal gave him a city bus pass and said go on your merry way."

Hicks claims administrators at Rawson-Neal gave Rodrick two prescriptions and a bus ticket to get home.

Hospital paperwork shows he was admitted to Rawson-Neal on April 17 and stayed through the 24th.

"I didn't get a call, I didn't get nothing," Shannon says. "It's a miracle he made it home safely, because his schizophrenia affects his ability to understand directions. They'll just let a mental patient out the door, without letting a family member know?"

Shannon claims she didn't even know Rodrick was at Rawson-Neal in the first place, despite calling the hospital several times.

"We were looking for him everywhere, and they told me that they had nobody under that name there," she says. "Now it makes me wonder how often this happens. There's probably more people looking for a loved one. It's scary."

Wow. And this happened just this month! Oh, and it happened just as Rawson-Neal was supposedly "fixing" its patient dumping policy! So is this the new policy? Instead of "Greyhound Therapy", Rawson-Neal patients will be subjected to "RTC Therapy"?

Clearly, the problem is far from solved. In fact, evidence is surfacing that patient dumping may actually still be occurring at Rawson-Neal. And yes, just releasing patients with RTC bus passes and without a treatment plan going forward is just as repugnant as out-of-state "Greyhound Therapy".

This also looks to be the verdict of the federal investigation of Rawson-Neal. If Nevada does not take appropriate "corrective action", Rawson-Neal will lose a significant amount of federal funding.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday sent a letter to Nevada health officials telling them that, due to "serious deficiencies," the state's primary psychiatric hospital "may be subject to termination of its Medicare provider agreement," according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Bee.

The federal agency, in concert with state officials, conducted a survey March 20 of Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas after The Bee first reported that one of the facility's patients was discharged improperly to Sacramento with no arrangement for housing or care.

According to the letter, the survey results showed that the hospital was out of compliance with federal regulations for discharge procedures and governance.

CMS gave the hospital 10 days to submit "evidence of correction." After that, a new survey will likely occur. If corrective action is not adequate, according to the letter, "we will notify you that we are initiating action to terminate the facility's Medicare provider agreement," a vital source of federal funding.

And that's not all. On top of this latest news, a Member of Congress is stepping forward to demand a new investigation into Nevada patient dumping.

Despite the policy change, Rep. Doris Matsui, a Sacramento Democrat, on Thursday called for a congressional investigation into Nevada's long-standing practice of shipping patients out of state.

In a letter to ranking members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over health matters, Matsui asks for investigative and oversight hearings into Rawson-Neal's discharge policies. She said a congressional investigation is warranted to determine if the practices violated federal laws regarding discharge planning and patient rights.

She called for the committee to look into "the scope, severity and consequences of Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services' selective disregard for the health and safety of its patients. Someone must be held accountable."

Yesterday, US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Here) expressed his own outrage over the growing patient dumping scandal. However with that being said, he did say he did not want to "intertwine himself" with this. Yet whether or not he personally wants to, other Members of Congress (especially ones representing California) may ultimately demand some sort of Congressional action. And perhaps they should, considering the feds may have also had a hand in worsening this problem [by cutting mental health funding].

So this story is far from over. And actually, I'm starting to wonder if this is only just the beginning.

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