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Greyhound Therapy. It's an evocative, sarcastic colloquialism used to describe the practice of dumping your mental health patients on busses or trains, with one-way tickets, in hopes that they'll become some other city/state/county's problem.
The practice, which was prevalent in the 1970s due to deinstitutionalization, is generally frowned upon by the mental health community, as the patients often lack resources in the destination community, and the communities themselves often have more people in need than they can handle.
Where would we be without The Sacramento Bee? Their exhaustive investigation of the problem, beginning with a schizophrenic patient that was shipped to Sacramento with only enough medication to last three days, documented "patient dumping" by the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital of Las Vegas.
According to the Bee's interactive map, around 1,500 patients have been discharged by the hospital and shipped out of the state since 2008, often with no support system or connection to their destination bus station. Five hundred of those patients ended up in California.
The hospital, while maintaining that the vast majority of patients were sent to their home communities, did not follow-up with the patients to ensure that they arrived safely at their destinations.
Since the Bee began its investigation, the hospital has lost its accreditation, faced a state inquiry, and may be on the verge of losing federal funding.
Last week, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent a letter to the State of Nevada, documenting 24 patents that were improperly bussed to the city, 20 of whom immediately sought and were provided emergency care. Herrera is seeking reimbursement for at least $500,000 in heath care and housing expenses for the patients that ended up in the city.
We can only imagine the total cost for Los Angeles, which received an estimated 150 patients over the past five years.
Herrera has also indicated that a class-action lawsuit could follow unless Nevada reimburses the state for expenses resulting from those patients who were dumped in cities where they were not residents, reports the Bee.
Off the top of our heads, it's hard to think of what the cause of action might be in such an odd and unprecedented situation. While "Greyhound Therapy" has been a long-running and ill-humored joke, this may be the first time a state has shipped hundreds, if not thousands, of patents out of state.
And though the hospital may have had a duty of care to the individual patients, we're not sure that a neighboring state can bring a suit over a breach of that duty. It will be interesting to see what Herrera comes up with.
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