Nevada Patient Busing

The Nevada busing investigation: How The Bee did this story

Rawson-Neal’s busing policies came to light early this year, when The Sacramento Bee published the story of a man the psychiatric hospital shipped to Sacramento even though he had no ties to the capital city.

James Flavy Coy Brown, who suffers from schizophrenia, had been living homeless in Las Vegas for years when he ended up at Rawson-Neal with symptoms of psychosis. After 72 hours, he later told The Bee, a doctor there told him he might enjoy “sunny California” and discharged him to the Las Vegas Greyhound station with a few bottles of Ensure and medication for the bus ride.

Following a 15-hour bus ride, Brown arrived in Sacramento carrying his bus schedule and discharge papers from Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, the hospital’s umbrella agency. Brown said hospital staffers had told him to dial 911 when he arrived.

Instead, Brown walked to a police station. He spent time in the UC Davis Medical Center emergency room, a private psychiatric hospital and two boarding homes in the Sacramento area before his daughter, alerted to his plight when The Bee contacted her, took him home to North Carolina.

Nevada health officials said Brown’s case was an anomaly. But, after reviewing all bus receipts purchased for patients by Nevada’s mental health system over a five-year period, The Bee found that he was one of about 1,500 psychiatric patients that Rawson-Neal bused out of southern Nevada via Greyhound between July 2008 and April of this year. About 500 patients were sent to California.

The names of the patients transported out of state were blacked out of busing records by Nevada officials for patient privacy reasons. But The Bee tracked down eight former patients or their relatives, and in June published a report that found, in most of those cases, Rawson-Neal has bused patients without firm plans for treatment or housing, and in some cases to cities where the patients had no personal ties.

Recently the newspaper obtained the unredacted busing records for more than 1,000 patients transported from Rawson-Neal over the past three years and attempted to find out how many were facing criminal charges at the time they were bused, or committed crimes after arriving at their destinations.

The bus receipts identifying the patients contained their first and last names and the date they were bused – but not their birth dates, which made it difficult to establish specific identities.

For roughly 325 patients sent to California, The Bee ran the patient names through official court records held across the state, both online and in person. Outside California, the newspaper conducted a search of names against online crime indexes in communities where specific patients were bused. The Bee also ran all 1,000 patient names through criminal court records systems in Las Vegas.

The analyses turned up dozens of apparent matches, both in California and nationwide, between the names of patients bused to a given city and the names of people arrested or convicted in that city after the busing date. It turned up dozens more apparent matches between patients who were bused and the names of suspects facing criminal charges in Las Vegas at the time of the bus trip. Many of the names were uncommon, indicating a high probability the matches were accurate, but additional reporting was needed for confirmation.

The Bee confirmed the case histories and identities of the people named in this story through interviews with the former patients, their relatives or, in one case, media reports.

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