Monday, April 22, 2013

Scent of a Scandal

Earlier today, we were discussing our state's need to admit that we have a problem with our current (non-)treatment of mental health patients. Ever since Californians began to learn the story of James Flavy Coy Brown, outrage has been mounting over Nevada's habit of patient dumping (out of state). And now, Governor Brian Sandoval (R-Denial) and the Nevada Legislature are about to find themselves in even more trouble.

Why? Oh, San Francisco is now launching a probe into our (not so) little patient dumping problem.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today announced a formal investigation into whether the State of Nevada improperly "dumped" psychiatric patients to his city and across California.

In a letter to the director of Nevada's Department of Health and Human Services sent this morning [and copied to Sandoval and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D)], Herrera demands that the state turn over documents related to its aggressive practice in recent years of discharging mental patients to Greyhound buses and transporting them across the country. [...]

The director of San Francisco's Behavioral Health Services department told The Bee earlier this month that at least two other Rawson-Neal patients had arrived in San Francisco in the last year "without a plan, without a relative."

"Assuming the reports are true, Nevada's practice of psychiatric 'patient dumping' is shockingly inhumane and illegal," Herrera said in a statement. "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. "

Herrera said the city will seek compensation from Nevada if it determines that "patient dumping" has resulted in the improper transfer of patients to San Francisco.

"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," he said. "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."

Oh, yes. That's right. This just happened. And "Governor Sunny" can't say we didn't warn him.

In recent days, the patient dumping scandal has been getting more attention... And more complaints. Los Angeles is also considering legal action against Nevada. A federal investigation is still underway. California legislators have asked the federal government to take action against Nevada soon. And now, even Utah mental health officials have been speaking out against Nevada's patient dumping habit.

Earlier today, Steve Sebelius wondered aloud if this issue has become the opening shot of the 2014 campaign season. While the issue has been slow to "bubble up" on this side of the state line, it's been receiving more attention lately. And every time Governor Sandoval clumsily denies its existence and/or tries to deflect from it, some higher level Democrats have been salivating over this potential opportunity to finally weaken "Governor Sunny's" political position.

So there's that. But more importantly, there's also the actual policy FAIL. Nevada didn't live up to its obligation to care for these real people. And as a result, these people were just disposed of like garbage. They were left in strange places without a home and without the treatment they need.

With today's news, there's finally the chance Nevada will be forced to deal with this problem. And perhaps with the budding scent of scandal sticking to Governor Sandoval, he may ultimately feel the urge to be done with the ugly political optics. We shall see what happens next.

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