I was extremely shocked and very surprised when I heard a story on the local news recently about a Nevada psychiatric hospital that has been discharging mentally ill patients with nothing more than a one-way bus ticket out of state. The Sacramento Bee reported that the Las Vegas Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital bought bus tickets for more than 1,500 mentally ill patients over the past 5 years, although Nevada officials maintained that nearly all of those discharges were “appropriate”. Some of these patients had been given one-way bus tickets to San Francisco, and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office launched an investigation into the alleged “patient dumping” from Las Vegas.
How can a psychiatric hospital, a hospital whose sole purpose is to care for the mentally ill, treat its patients so inhumanely? This incident makes me question what kind of people are employed at the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital? People who do not care about the plight of the mentally ill should not be employed in a psychiatric hospital. To me, the decision of the Rawson-Neal staff to “discharge” their patients with nothing more than a one-way bus ticket to San Francisco is the decision of a person who has mental health issues themselves. How could anyone be so cruel?
I imagined myself as a patient at the Las Vegas psychiatric hospital waiting to be discharged, only to receive a one-way bus ticket to a huge city I had never been to before. I had no food, no medication, no one to contact in San Francisco, and I didn’t know anyone there. I brought with me only the clothes that I was wearing at the time. After a long, hot bus ride, we arrived in downtown San Francisco. I stepped off the bus, and look around. Where was I? I was hungry, and it would be dark in a few hours. What would I eat? Where would I sleep? I’m a woman. San Francisco is more dangerous for me.
I can’t imagine anything more terrifying for a mentally ill person to experience, yet are the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital staff concerned about any of the patients they “discharged” to major metropolitan areas over the past 5 years? Probably not. “San Francisco Health Director Barbara Garcia said outreach workers in the past year identified two psychiatric patients who arrived in the city on buses after being discharged from Rawson-Neal with neither relatives nor treatment plans awaiting them in San Francisco.” This is scary. We need to take care of the mentally ill, not transport them to urban areas to become homeless and live in shelters for the rest of their lives. What if this happened to you?