SF plans to sue to recoup costs over Nevada 'patient dumping'

preese@sacbee.comAugust 20, 2013 

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera told Nevada state officials Tuesday that he would soon file a class action lawsuit on behalf of California's cities and counties to recoup costs related to the discharge and busing of roughly 500 patients to California during the last five years.

Herrera said San Francisco alone spent at least $500,000 on medical care, housing and grants for patients bused from Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas.

"Rawson-Neal staff were well aware that the 24 patients bused to San Francisco since April 2008 were all indigent and homeless, suffering from mental illnesses requiring ongoing medical care and medication, and in most cases were non-residents of San Francisco with no family members here to care for them," Herrera wrote in a letter to Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.

"Rawson-Neal staff understood and expected that the bused patients would rely on San Francisco's public health resources for continuing medical care; indeed, they specifically directed some of the bused patients to seek care at San Francisco public health clinics and San Francisco-supported shelter and housing upon their arrival here."

Rawson-Neal has been under intense scrutiny since The Bee reported earlier this year that it had bused a homeless, mentally ill man to Sacramento with no family or friends waiting for him and no plan for care. Since then, the hospital has lost its accreditation and is in danger of losing its Medicare funding.

Herrera and four other California city attorneys, including the city attorney for Sacramento, wrote a letter to Cortez in May asking to discuss discharge practices at Rawson-Neal. That meeting never took place, Hererra said.

To avoid a lawsuit, Herrera said, Nevada "must reimburse the destination California cities and counties for their expenditure of public resources to provide medical care and basic necessities to the patients that Nevada improperly bused to us."

Nevada must also adopt a set of protocols, Herrera said, that would ensure no more patients are bused to California without a plan for care coordinated with mental health providers here.

"The manner in which these patients were transported was inhumane and unacceptable," he wrote. "These patients were transported without escorts; without prior arrangements for a responsible party to receive them at their destination; without adequate provisions of medication or food; and without proper instructions for these patients' follow-up medical care, housing or support services."

Mary Woods, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, said her office does not comment on pending litigation.

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