Sacramento Bee series on Nevada patient dumping named Pulitzer finalist

04/15/2014 12:00 AM

10/30/2014 12:46 PM

Two Sacramento Bee reporters were honored Monday as Pulitzer Prize finalists in the investigative reporting category.

Bee staffers Cynthia Hubert and Phillip Reese were named finalists for a series of stories stemming from one man’s account of his discharge from Nevada’s primary hospital for mentally ill people to a Greyhound bus bound for Sacramento. James Flavy Coy Brown, who suffers from schizophrenia, had been living homeless in Las Vegas for years when Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital discharged him to a Greyhound bus station with a one-way ticket to Sacramento.

Following a bus trip that spanned multiple stops over three days, Brown arrived in Sacramento carrying his discharge papers from Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, the hospital’s umbrella agency. He had never been to California, and hospital staff made no arrangements for his treatment or housing. Brown said hospital staffers had told him to dial 911 when he arrived.

Instead, he wound up at the Loaves & Fishes homeless services complex on North C Street, confused and talking of suicide, according to staffers there. With their help, he made it to UC Davis Medical Center, where he spent two nights in the emergency room while hospital staff searched for more permanent psychiatric treatment and housing.

In their subsequent investigation, Hubert and Reese found the Las Vegas hospital had shipped about 1,500 psychiatric patients to states across the nation in a five-year period. Those patients, many of them homeless or indigent, were placed alone on buses for trips that often spanned multiple states and days. Many were sent to cities where they had no treatment or support. Some ended up homeless in their new location. Others were violent offenders who committed crimes in their new communities.

In the wake of The Bee’s reports, Rawson-Neal lost its accreditation, and its treatment protocols remain the focus of ongoing reviews by state and federal agencies, as well as multiple lawsuits.

The series of stories won the 2013 George Polk Award in Journalism and the 2013 Worth Bingham Prize for Investigative Journalism.

Bee photographer Renée C. Byer, a 2007 Pulitzer Prize winner and a finalist in 2013, provided photos for the series. The stories were edited by Deborah Anderluh, The Bee’s senior editor for investigations and enterprise.

Chris Hamby of The Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., won the investigative reporting Pulitzer for stories that unraveled “how some lawyers and doctors rigged a system to deny benefits to coal miners stricken with black lung disease,” the Pulitzer board said.

Also named as a finalist was Megan Twohey of Reuters for her series exposing “an underground Internet marketplace where parents could bypass social welfare regulations and get rid of children they had adopted overseas but no longer wanted,” the board said.

To read the whole Nevada Busing series click here.

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