On August 25, 2014, a former patient of the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital located in Las Vegas filed a class-action lawsuit against the hospital in Clark County District Court. The lawsuit stems out of a long-standing practice whereby the hospital would buy one-way bus tickets for mentally ill patients to receive “care and treatment” in their “home communities” which were located in other states. Many patients were bused to California. However, the lawsuit alleges that the patients civil rights were violated because were bused in a drugged, and sometimes psychotic state, and were not able to provide informed consent to being moved.
Another Rawson-Neal patient had previously filed a lawsuit against the hospital in federal court seeking monetary damages and asking the court to order Rawson-Neal to end the busing practice. The patient was represented by the Nevada ACLU. However, the lawsuit was dismissed in June of this year. In addition, the City of San Francisco sued Nevada seeking reimbursement for the costs of caring for patients who were bused to the city without anyone to care for them. This newest lawsuit has been filed in a different court, namely Clark County District Court. The patient is represented by Mark Merin, a prominent Sacramento civil rights attorney. He has previously filed suit on similar issues in various courts. With a reputation towards leniency and being more friendly to plaintiffs than federal courts, it will be interesting to see if the Nevada State court takes a different interpretation of the facts than the federal court did and allows the lawsuit to continue.
In an original article in 2013 by the Sacramento Bee and later reported by the Review Journal, the papers described how Rawson-Neal bused over 1000 patients from July 2008 to April 2013 to locations outside of Las Vegas. Rawson-Neal maintains that the busing program was provided to patients who were transient in Las Vegas and needed assistance to return to their home communities where they would receive proper care and supervision from family members. However, the Sacramento Bee investigation painted a very different picture. Patients were bused unchaperoned to cities were they had tenuous ties at best. Some were heavily medicated and endured multiple-day trips to far-flung destinations. However, many were bused to California which led to the Sacramento Bee investigation. When they arrived in their new cities, few had anyone to meet them. Many ended up in public hospitals and jails, effectively shifting the burden of care from Las Vegas to another jurisdiction. Many of them not only were mentally ill but also had arrest warrants for various crimes ranging from vagrancy to murder. When they relocated, crime followed. More than one person committed a violent act, such as stabbing, in their new community.
In the fallout from the investigations, Gov. Sandolval stated that he was “appalled” by the actions of the hospital and ordered a government review of the hospital’s actions. At least four employees were fired and many others were disciplined. Moreover, the hospital states it has strengthened its policies to prevent such busing occurring in the future.