Saying she is "gravely concerned" about Nevada's long-standing practice of busing mentally ill patients from its primary state psychiatric hospital to cities across the country, Rep. Doris Matsui is asking for a congressional investigation.
In a letter to ranking members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over health matters, the California Democrat asks for investigative and oversight hearings into the discharge practices of Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas.
The facility and its umbrella agency, Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, have been under fire since a report in The Bee earlier this month showed the hospital had paid to transport more than 1,500 patients to other states via Greyhound bus since 2008. About a third of those patients were dispatched to California.
One of those patients, James Flavy Coy Brown, in February was bused 15 hours to Sacramento, a place he said he had never visited and knew no one. Brown suffers from schizophrenia and depression and had been living on the streets of Las Vegas for years. Out of food and medication when he arrived in Sacramento, he spent three nights in a hospital emergency room before social workers found him temporary housing.
The Bee's report has touched off state and federal investigations, as well as criminal probes by the cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles into whether Nevada has engaged in cross-state 'patient-dumping.'
This week, Nevada authorities announced that they no longer would be sending state psychiatric patients alone on buses. They said a chaperone will accompany any mental patient discharged from state facilties for whom Nevada is paying transportation costs.
Nevertheless, Matsui said, a congressional investigation is warranted to determine whether Nevada's 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."
Nevada officials have defended their aggressive busing policy, saying most patients were being transported to their home communities and had family or treatment waiting on the other end.
Call The Bee's Cynthia Hubert, (916)321-1082