Nevada Patient Busing

Psychiatric hospital that bused hundreds of patients out of Nevada keeps accreditation for now

Nevada's primary state hospital for psychiatric patients will retain its accreditation, at least temporarily, following reports that it discharged and bused hundreds of patients to California and across the country over the past five years.

The Joint Commission, an independent accrediting agency, conducted two investigations into Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas earlier this year.

The first resulted from concerns about the hospital's discharge policies after The Bee revealed that Rawson-Neal had discharged a homeless, schizophrenic man by bus to Sacramento in February without making arrangements for his treatment or shelter.

The second was a routine survey that takes place every three years.

State chief medical officer Tracey Green said Thursday that results of the routine survey would allow Rawson-Neal to retain its accreditation for now. However, the Joint Commission will revisit the hospital within 60 days to determine whether it will be reaccredited, Green said.

Similarly, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said last month that it had approved a plan of correction submitted by Rawson-Neal to bring the hospital back into compliance with federal standards. It also will conduct another survey.

"We are moving in the right direction," Green said. "We have made a lot of improvement."

A Bee investigation published in April found that Rawson-Neal bused about 1,500 psychiatric patients to states across the nation in the last five years, giving them one-way tickets out of Las Vegas, along with a small supply of medication and liquid supplement Ensure for the journey.

About 500 of those patients were sent to California, according to a Bee review of Greyhound bus receipts purchased by the state.

The revelations have raised questions in California and elsewhere about whether Nevada was systematically "dumping" mentally ill patients across state lines. The city attorneys in Los Angeles and San Francisco have launched probes into whether Nevada violated patient civil rights laws.

In the weeks since The Bee published its findings, Nevada health officials have largely defended the aggressive busing practice, saying Las Vegas is an international destination that attracts more than its share of visitors. They maintain the vast majority of patients bused out of state were sent to communities where they had support systems or family to meet them.

Nevertheless, the hospital has since changed its discharge policies to build in more oversight and require that all patients bused out of state be accompanied by a chaperone.

Call The Bee's Phillip Reese, (916) 321-1137.