A growing scandal over Nevada’s alleged “dumping” of mentally ill patients in California is stretching into Orange County, with county officials saying this week that they’re trying to find a woman apparently sent to Anaheim without support.
Health care officials have been looking for the woman, whose first name is Monica, but haven’t succeeded, said Mary Hale, Orange County’s behavioral health director.
At least one Nevada patient has previously been found in Orange County, and there may be many more patients locally who have yet to be identified.
“This facility in Nevada is doing Greyhound [bus] therapy,” Hale told county supervisors on Tuesday amid growing outrage over the issue statewide.
Nevada’s main psychiatric hospital sent 28 patients to Orange County in recent years, according to data collected by the Sacramento Bee. In many of the so-called patient dumping cases examined by the newspaper, Nevada officials simply sent clients on their way without ensuring they received treatment or housing.
Those sent to Orange County are among hundreds of patients that Nevada’s Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital allegedly bused to California with little or no resources.
Nevada mental health officials have defended their actions, saying the vast majority of their patients are returned to families or treatment programs.
Nevada state officials are under intense pressure after the issue was exposed by the Bee last week. San Francisco’s city attorney called it “shockingly inhumane and illegal.” City attorneys in Los Angeles and San Francisco are considering legal action against Nevada, whose dumping of mentally ill patients corresponds with cuts to its funding of mental health services.
One example cited by the newspaper is a patient allegedly sent to Sacramento, a city he had never visited, with no more than snacks, a three-day supply of medication to treat his schizophrenia and instructions to call 911 when he arrived.
The issue isn’t limited to California’s largest cities. Figures gathered by the Bee show that since mid-2008, Nevada has sent 19 patients to Anaheim and 9 to Santa Ana.
At this week’s Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor John Moorlach brought up the issue, asking whether officials have located Monica.
Hale of the county’s Health Care Agency said a search by outreach and engagement staff was fruitless. “We haven’t found her,” said Hale.
Hale also recalled that a former Nevada patient, diagnosed with schizophrenia, was found in Newport Beach “a couple of years ago” and subsequently received treatment.
Hale emphasized that Orange County officials ensure that family members are contacted and outpatient care is arranged for when patients are discharged.
It’s extremely rare to ever send a patient out of state without contacting the patient's family, Hale added, saying she couldn’t remember that ever happening in Orange County.
Orange County officials haven’t announced any legal inquiries into Nevada’s patient busing.
Tuesday’s discussion came as supervisors considered a two-year, $8.7-million contract for mental health inpatient services. The contract, with College Hospital Costa Mesa and Western Medical Center Anaheim, was approved unanimously.