Many of the people with mental illnesses who roam San Francisco’s streets, gaining access to The City’s bountiful array of psychiatric and substance-abuse treatment options, come from elsewhere — and some, it turns out, were “dumped” here by out-of-state care providers.
At least 36 people — some with severe mental or other psychiatric issues — were bused to San Francisco by a Las Vegas-area mental hospital with no notification to family, no links to the area, and no arrangement to provide care for them, according to an investigative report published by The Sacramento Bee.
This practice, long hinted at by anecdotal stories, is called “patient dumping” and has drawn the attention of City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who launched a formal investigation Monday.
Patients at the state-run Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas would receive a three-day supply of medication and a one-way Greyhound bus ticket to an out-of-state city, with instructions to call 911 on arrival, the Bee reported.
More than 1,500 patients were “dumped” on other cities in this manner over a period of five years; at least 500 were sent to California.
“At least” 36 of these patients were sent to San Francisco from Rawson-Neal, according to Herrera, who notified officials at the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services of his investigation Monday. He asked San Francisco service providers and members of the public to report any possible instance of “shockingly inhumane and illegal” patient dumping.
The practice violates a number of state, federal and local laws, according to City Attorney’s Office spokesman Matt Dorsey. Hospitals are required to “avoid foreseeable harm” to people under their care; sending patients to faraway states without resources and without arrangements to provide for their care “placed the patients at risk,” Dorsey said.
Herrera pledged to seek compensation from Nevada to recover any cost to local taxpayers, “assuming the reports are true,” he said in a statement. Stories of people in “grave psychiatric condition” mysteriously appearing at the Greyhound bus station at the old Transbay Terminal have circulated for years, noted Bevan Dufty, Mayor Ed Lee’s homeless czar.
“It’s a serious concern for this city if there is a pattern of any medical facility being a part of this,” said Dufty, who noted that while San Francisco may be known for robust mental health services, providers are taxed enough with their current patient loads. “If this is happening, it shouldn’t be.”