San Francisco’s more than two-year legal battle with Nevada over the state’s practice of sending psychiatric patients to The City has reached a conclusion in a $400,000 settlement pending approval by the Board
of Supervisors and the state of Nevada.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera launched an investigation and subsequently filed a lawsuit over the dumping of patients after the Sacramento Bee exposed the practice by a Las Vegas-based psychiatric hospital in 2013.
The amount of the proposed settlement is $400,000. Other details are not yet public. The lawsuit also sought protections to ensure the practice would not occur again. The Nevada Board of Examiners would need to approve of the terms, which it may do as early as Oct. 13.
In a statement issued Friday to the San Francisco Examiner, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said that the settlement would “validate the patient management best practices and procedures which Nevada has had in place for two years.” He added, “We look forward to working with California to ensure all patient transfers to and from both states are managed using these best practices and adhering to conditions detailed in the agreement.”
Sandoval did note in the statement that the settlement amount was less than what Herrera had sought and that the proposed settlement would include “reciprocal obligations” by San Francisco “regarding patient status and movement.”
Herrera’s spokesman Matt Dorsey declined to comment on the case, pending approval of the settlement by Nevada. “Nevada’s practice of psychiatric ‘patient dumping’ is shockingly inhumane and illegal,” Herrera said in April 2013.
“Over the past five years, the state of Nevada has transferred to other states approximately 1,500 patients discharged from its state-run Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital, including 500 patients that Nevada sent by Greyhound bus to cities and counties in California,” said the lawsuit filed September 2013 by Herrera in San Francisco Superior Court. The revelations led to the loss of the hospital’s accreditation. It has since been reaccredited.
The patients, many of whom were mentally ill indigent and not California residents, were sent to various destinations with no arrangements for when they arrived, according to the lawsuit.
San Francisco identified 24 patients Nevada bused to San Francisco since April 2008, according to the lawsuit. Twenty were in need of medical care “some within mere hours of getting off the bus,” the lawsuit said.
The patients received care at San Francisco General Hospital or various health clinics under the auspices of the Department of Public Health. About $500,000 in medical care, shelter and other basic necessities was spent on these bus patients, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit argued that Nevada had a legal responsibility under its state law to provide proper care for the patients. Nevada had intended to fight the case at the Supreme Court, but that court decided in June not to hear the appeal, which argued California state courts didn’t have the authority to handle lawsuits between states.
It is not unheard of for cities to send homeless persons or other vulnerable persons to other locations. San Francisco does send segments of its vulnerable population to other jurisdictions under its Homeward Bound program, also known as “A Bus Ticket Home.”
The significant difference from what Nevada did is that San Francisco’s program ensures those sent have family or friends to reunite with along with a stable living situation, are medically stable and are sober. Between 2013 and 2015, the program paid the travel expenses of 1,614 persons.