Federal warning, multiple probes follow allegations of Nevada 'patient dumping'

A Nevada psychiatric hospital has over the past several years purportedly released, then bused hundreds of patients to states across the country, prompting a federal warning and multiple investigations included two in California, the top destination.

The investigations into Las Vegas’ Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital come after a 48-year-old male patient arrived in February at a Sacramento facility in a suicidal and confused state while out of food and medication and with no contacts, identification or access to Social Security payments, The Sacramento Bee newspaper reports.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Nev., said this week that his administration has launched three investigations, which so far have resulted in disciplinary and corrective measures. But he denied allegations the state has engaged in "patient dumping.”

"Let me be clear, improperly discharging one patient is one patient too many,” said the governor, adding the investigations continue. “I take the concerns regarding Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital very seriously. And it is not the policy of the state of Nevada to engage in 'patient dumping' as (has) been alleged.”

His statement was followed by a letter Thursday from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that stated the hospital has “serious deficiencies” in its discharge policies and gave Nevada 10 days to fix problems or risk losing federal funding, which could equal tens of millions of dollars.

The hospital has since 2008 sent at least one of the 1,500 patients to every state in the continental United States, with California receiving 389, based on the newspaper investigation, which includes a review of state records of Greyhound Bus receipts.

While the policy is not illegal, it appears unusual, according to the investigation in which mental-health agencies in California and other states said putting a psychiatric patient on a bus without support was not permissible.

The cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco started their own investigation before Sandoval’s comments Tuesday.

Los Angles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said Wednesday his investigation will proceed, despite Sandoval vowing to get to the bottom of the situation.

“We are going to continue doing what we need to protect the city,” he told FoxNews.com. “This doesn’t change the fact 150 people have been dumped on the streets of Los Angeles.”

The investigation by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera requests the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services provide such public records as licenses, citations, federal funding agreements and other documents relevant to the allegations.

"Assuming the reports are true, Nevada's practice of psychiatric 'patient dumping' is shockingly inhumane and illegal,” Herrera said.

Trutanich and others have suggested that cost was the reason behind the alleged busing.

The newspaper investigation found Nevada, faced with a budget deficit, cut mental-health spending by 28 percent from 2009 to 2012 and was already spending below the national average on per-patient care.

Meanwhile, several other groups – including the Joint Commission accreditation company -- have been alerted about the allegations and are now in fact-gathering stages.