Nevada has thought of a convenient way to solve their mental-health care crisis, by “dumping” its psychiatric patients all over the United States. The newspaper the Sacramento Bee was the first to discover what Nevada was up to and now San Francisco’s Attorney General Dennis Herrera is getting involved. This deplorable practice is the direct result of states slashing mental health care funding in favor of political brownie points.
The Nevada state-run facility Rawson Neal has “dumped” some 1,500 patients since 2008. They provide these patients with a one-way Greyhound bus ticket to out-of-state locations without any access to food, water, medication, housing or medical treatment plan. The SacBee used Nevada’s open records to identify the 1,500 patients but says there could be many more who received the same treatment.
Map of where patients have been sent:
What response have Nevada state health authorities given? Well, there are to popular responses. The first, that they were actually doing these patients favors. The second, that this is a "documentation error." The continued reporting by the Sacramento based newspaper is a serious testament to investigative journalism. It is only because of their intensive investigation that this issue is now being looked at by the San Francisco Attorney General. Herrera wrote a letter to the head of Nevada's Department of Health and Human Services to demand answers. He's quoted in the SacBee, “Assuming the reports are true, Nevada's practice of psychiatric 'patient dumping' is shockingly inhumane and illegal."
Should this kind of behavior really come as shock to us in a nation that routinely abandons its mentally ill in favor of political soundbites? Nevada cut its mental health care budget as a way to relieve some of the burden of a crippling deficit. Unsurprisingly, as they did this, the number of patients they bussed out of the state grew by 60 percent. Nevada is by no means the only state to engage in these kinds of practices.
State's cut mental health care budgets during the recession:
The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that mental illness affects 1 in 4 Americans each year, that’s 60 million people. This story is total shame and yet another call to action to discuss the immediate need to improve the United States mental health care system.