A legal battle between San Francisco and Nevada has gone on for the past two years. Now, the case has concluded - with Nevada agreeing to pay San Francisco $400,000 in damages related to the state’s “dumping” of psychiatric patients in the California city. The settlement agreement is pending approval by authorities.
The investigation was launched in 2013 by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. It began after a local paper, the Sacramento Bee, exposed a practice whereby a Las Vegas-based psychiatric hospital would ship and “dump” patients at a San Francisco hospital.
In addition to seeking monetary damages, the city also requested that protections be put in place so that the practice would not happen again. Other details of the settlement have not been disclosed publicly.
In the lawsuit filed in September of 2013, Herrera claimed that, “Over the past five years, the state of Nevada has transferred to other states approximately 1,500 patients discharged from its state-run Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital, including 500 patients that Nevada sent by Greyhound bus to cities and counties in California.”
The lawsuit further claims that the patients in question were indigent and mentally ill. Moreover, many of them were not California residents. The Nevada hospital sent these patients by bus to many different destinations in California with no arrangements or plans when they arrived - and without family or friends. Specifically, San Francisco identified 24 patients that Nevada bused to the city since April of 2008 and that 20 of these patients needed medical care, “some within mere hours of getting off the bus.”
The patients received the care they needed at various health clinics and the San Francisco General Hospital. The Department of Public Health oversaw the care. According to the lawsuit, approximately $500,000 was spent on these “bus patients” in the form of medical expenses, shelter costs and other basic necessities.
The lawsuit argued that Nevada had its own legal responsibility pursuant to state law to provide care for these patients. Somewhat surprisingly, Nevada planned on fighting the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court but the court declined to hear the appeal. The basis of Nevada’s appeal was that California state courts do not have the legal authority to hear lawsuits between two states.
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval said in a statement to the San Francisco Examiner that the settlement would “validate the patient management best practices and procedures which Nevada has had in place for two years. We look forward to working with California to ensure all patient transfers to and from both states are managed using these best practices and adhering to conditions detailed in the agreement.”