SAN FRANCISCO -- The city attorney said Monday he's launching an investigation into whether Nevada health officials are systemically sending psychiatric patients to San Francisco and other cities.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent a letter to Nevada's Department of Health and Human Services demanding to see documents related to what he termed "patient dumping" -- the alleged practice of discharging psychiatric patients and busing them to other places.
"Assuming the reports are true, Nevada's practice of psychiatric 'patient dumping' is shockingly inhumane and illegal," Herrera said in a statement. "We intend to investigate these reports thoroughly, and I am inviting input from providers of services to San Francisco's homeless, who may be willing to volunteer evidence and testimony to assist the city in a potential civil action."
Nevada officials said there is no evidence they have been systemically sending patients out of state.
In his letter to the director of Nevada's Department of Health and Human Services, with copies sent to Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and other officials, Herrera cites articles in The Sacramento Bee (http://bit.ly/17eemj4 ) detailing how Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas transported more than 1,500 psychiatric patients by Greyhound bus nationwide between 2008 and last March.
Rawson-Neal is Nevada's primary state psychiatric hospital.
Sandoval, a Republican midway through his first term, met Monday afternoon with GOP and Democratic legislative leaders to brief them on how Nevada is responding.
Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said the state is "in the process of completing a comprehensive review and that's the right thing to do."
Herrera said San Francisco will seek compensation from Nevada if it determines patient dumping has resulted in the improper transfer of patients to the city.
"We're prepared to litigate aggressively on behalf of San Francisco and its taxpayers to recover whatever costs or damages we're able to identify," the city attorney said.
The issue has been under scrutiny since February, when one patient at Rawson-Neal was given a bus ticket and turned up suicidal and confused at a homeless complex in Sacramento, where he knew no one and had never been before.
Several other agencies are also examining Rawson-Neal's transfer policies.
The Joint Commission, which evaluates and certifies hospitals across the country, said last week it's aware of complaints and is gathering information to determine if a special on-site survey is warranted.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal watchdog agency, also is reviewing the hospital's discharge practices. Jack Cheevers, a spokesman, said the agency asked Nevada's health division to assist in a probe.
Violations could result in a possible loss of federal funding.