Opinion » Editorials

San Francisco right to take Nevada ‘patient dumping’ allegations seriously

by

1 comment

‘Greyhound Therapy” has evidently made its way to San Francisco, and it’s not the kind of tour bus you want to see.

The City Attorney’s Office said Monday that it is investigating the possibility that Nevada shipped mentally ill people it didn’t want to deal with all the way to San Francisco — 36 over a five-year period. In fact, Nevada might have sent at least one such person to every state in the lower 48 during that time.

The announcement came nearly two months after The Sacramento Bee published a report that at least one man, James Flavy Coy Brown, said Nevada bused him to the California capital with three days’ worth of medicine and told him to call 911 when he arrived there. Having never been to Sacramento and having no family or friends there, the man went to a police station instead.

This practice of “patient dumping” is not only morally reprehensible, it is wholly illegal — a clear violation of federal civil-rights laws.  

Nevada responded this week, seemingly once the issue became a national story. Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, denied that his state has a policy of patient dumping, yet he did acknowledge that a state-run psychiatric hospital did improperly discharge at least one mentally ill man. A new discharge policy apparently was recently put in place to avoid future missteps.

That’s nice, but it’s not nearly enough. Sandoval did not acknowledge ample evidence suggesting that patient dumping is a serious matter in Nevada.

In the original Bee report, the story’s main subject said three of his former housemates were also shipped to other states. Then there are the 36 people who appear to have ended up in San Francisco. Los Angeles County might have received 200 patients. All told, at least 500 people reportedly were sent to California.

The prime evidence comes from a public-records request made by the Bee: Nevada officials purchased 1,500 Greyhound bus tickets between mid-2008 and early March of this year.

Until Nevada ’fesses up to its errors, it’s impossible to know how many of those tickets were used to dump patients.

Like San Francisco, that state does have a program where it sends people by bus either back to their homes or someplace else where family or friends will take them in. Such programs are admirable, so let’s hope at least some of those bus tickets were used for that purpose.

However, if Brown was the only patient dumped, that’s still an offense that deserves thorough punishment. Happily, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department says it’s investigating this matter.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said that if the reports prove true, he will seek compensation from Nevada to recover any costs to local taxpayers. Let’s hope that his office’s investigation proves fruitful, because when it comes to civil rights, we should spare no expense to ensure that all of us — especially our most vulnerable — are treated humanely and with respect.