LAS VEGAS (CN) – A state-run psychiatric hospital in Nevada routinely dumps patients in out-of-state locations, with suicide the result in several instances, patients claim in a federal class action.
Plaintiffs Clorissa D. Porter and William D. Spencer are former psychiatric patients at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital and say hospital staff involuntarily discharged them and sent them to out-of-state destinations.
Porter, 33, says despite knowing their need for psychiatric care, hospital staff sent them to locations where they knew she and others could not obtain proper treatment.
“Many prior patients discharged and subjected to ‘Greyhound therapy’ … immediately became homeless, and several committed suicide,” Porter says in the complaint.
Porter says she and others “were medicated before their discharge and required to leave the facility under the influence of powerful anti-psychotic/tranquilizing medication” and while in a “drugged state and incompetent to give informed consent.”
Hospital staff “physically escorted’ them from the hospital to taxis that took them to the Greyhound Bus Station in Las Vegas, where they were given pre-paid tickets to out-of-state destinations, Porter says.
She says Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services paid for the bus tickets, which took her to Flint, Michigan, in January 2013, and Spencer to Los Angeles in September 2012.
Porter says they traveled without provisions for medical care or assistance, and there were no prior arrangements for the follow-up care upon arrival.
She says the hospital staff only gave each of them a “minimum amount of liquid nutrient and a supply of psychiatric medication supposedly sufficient for the days of travel,” according to her complaint.
When admitted to Rawson-Neal, Porter says she was “penniless and homeless,” was depressed and “experiencing suicidal ideation,” and had history of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
She says hospital staff wrote up a treatment plan that included obtaining treatment through a program in Caro, Michigan, but the “treatment plan was intentionally disregarded and violated by her involuntary discharge,” which left her with no way to get from Flint to Caro.
After she arrived in Flint, Porter says she called Rawson-Neal and was told by staff there to contact the program in Caro. She then called a cousin in Las Vegas, who wired her money for food.
Porter says she experienced a mental breakdown while in Michigan and was admitted to a hospital, which unsuccessfully tried to get Porter’s medical records from Rawson-Neal.
Spencer says he was “severely depressed” when admitted to Rawson-Neal on Aug. 26, 2012, and discharged a few weeks later with a one-way ticket to Los Angeles.
He says defendant Dr. Jacob Manjooran told him to call 911 when he arrived in Los Angeles, but Spencer told Manjooran he did not want to leave Las Vegas, where he had been living for two years.
On Sept. 20, 2012, though, Spencer says Manjooran told him he was being discharged that night to a care facility in Pasadena, California, where he would receive sufficient treatment to return to work.
After an eight-hour bus ride to Los Angeles with no food or money, Spencer says he arrived at the bus station with no way to get to Pasadena and “promptly became homeless, experienced panic attacks and anxiety,” according to the complaint.
Porter says the Sacramento Bee learned of the “’dumping’” of putative class member James Flavy Coy Brown in Sacramento and reported that since 2008, about 1,500 Rawson-Neal patients similarly had been discharged to locations in almost every state and with “minimum provisions to sustain them during protracted bus rides.”
Brown unsuccessfully sued Rawson-Neal for patient dumping in 2014.
A survey of 30 former Rawson-Neal patients conducted by the Nevada Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance showed many discharges violated the policies and procedures established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and Rawson-Neal’s own policies, Porter says in the lawsuit.
In those 30 cases, Porter says an investigation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid faulted Rawson-Neal for not ensuring medical staff was accountable for the quality of care provided, did not provide an effective discharge process that applied to all patients, and did not identify patients at high risk of suffering “adverse consequences upon discharge without an adequate discharge plan.”
The report also said Rawson-Neal did not provide patients with a discharge planning evaluation or ensure hospital staff arranged the initial discharge plan for patients, which caused the hospital to fail in delivering “statutory mandated care,” Porter says.
Porter and the others seek punitive damages and other relief, as well as a court order barring the hospital from continuing its practices, plus attorney’s fees and legal costs for patient dumping, disability and wealth discrimination, and Fourth, Eighth and 14th Amendments violations.
Named as defendants are Southern Nevada Adult Mental health Services aka Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital; hospital administrator Chelsea Szklany; Nevada Dept. of Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden; Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health administrator Richard Whitley; and Rawson-Neal Associate Medical Director Dr. Leon Ravin.
Also named as defendants are Nevada Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance Chief Kyle Devine, Nevada Psychiatric Medical Director Dr. Linda J. White, and Rawson-Neal psychiatrists Dr. Rao Pavvada and Manjooran.
Las Vegas attorney Allen Lichtenstein filed the 31-page class action and was not immediately available for comment via telephone on Friday.
Administrative officials at Rawson-Neal were out of the office for the Christmas holiday and unavailable for comment on Friday.