The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously gave its initial approval today of a $400,000 settlement from the State of Nevada following the City Attorney’s 2013 class-action lawsuit against Nevada over ‘patient dumping’ allegations.
The lawsuit came about after reports by The Sacramento Bee newspaper, which was followed by an investigation by the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office.
The investigations found that Nevada improperly bused needy psychiatric patients to San Francisco and other California counties between 2008 and 2013.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said today that this settlement ends San Francisco’s litigation with Nevada over psychiatric patient transportation practices.
In August 2013, Herrera wrote in a letter to Nevada state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto that his office found nearly 500 patients had been bused from a Nevada hospital to various California cities since April 2008, including San Francisco.
The investigation found that at least 24 patients came to San Francisco from Nevada’s state-run psychiatric facility, Rawson-Neal Hospital in Las Vegas, and that there had been no prior arrangements for patients’ care, housing or medical treatment.
Of those 24 patients, 20 required emergency medical care within a short time after their arrival and San Francisco spent nearly $500,000 on medical care and housing for those patients, all of whom were homeless and suffering from mental illnesses, according to Herrera.
The hospital discharged and then unsafely transported the patients via Greyhound bus to San Francisco, according to Herrera’s investigation.
In his 2013 letter to Masto, Herrera wrote that the busing practices were “inhumane and unacceptable,” noting that they were allegedly transported without escorts, without adequate medication or food and without arrangements for someone to receive them at their destination.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval issued a statement shortly after Herrera’s announcement of his investigation, saying that “disciplinary actions have been taken and a corrective plan of action was put in place” at the hospital.
Sandoval said the changes would “provide additional oversight to ensure that discharge and transportation policies are followed correctly.”
In addition to the $400,000 settlement to recoup the city’s lost funds, a number of other agreements were reached to deter such actions from happening again and to help make sure Nevada’s most vulnerable receive care and dignity.
Nevada has agreed to only provide travel assistance to California for patients who meet appropriate criteria and ensure that the patients are returning to a home address or to a medical facility or program, and that they will be received or accompanied by a responsible individual, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
Nevada, through the end of next year, will also provide San Francisco with a semi-annual report about these patients, their dates of discharge, destination city, and name of individuals at any medical facility that has agreed to receive the patient.
Both parties have also established mutual obligations to improve communications regarding patient needs between health care agencies in the two states.
“I’m pleased we reached an agreement that will assure the well-being of psychiatric patients when they’re transported, and that also offers a model for how jurisdictions can work together to better protect our patients and taxpayers,” Herrera said.
Nevada’s Board of Examiners approved the agreement on Oct. 13 and the settlement now requires approval by the San Francisco Superior Court, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News