FOX19 Investigates: NV mental health patients dumped in Ohio

FOX19 Investigates: NV mental health patients dumped in Ohio
An investigation alleges more than 1,500 patients were shipped out from the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital. (Elizabeth Watts/FOX5)
An investigation alleges more than 1,500 patients were shipped out from the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital. (Elizabeth Watts/FOX5)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - FOX19 Investigates has learned mentally ill patients at a Nevada psychiatric hospital were given one-way bus tickets to the Tri-State.

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas is accused of a multi-state practice known as "patient dumping." Allegations surfaced earlier this year that the state-run facility transported about 1,500 patients to other states.

FOX19 obtained bus ticket receipts and found more than 30 patients were bused to Ohio. Two dozen others went to cities in Kentucky and Indiana. It's unknown what happened to the patients once they arrived or if the patients had any prior connection to their destinations.

About 500 of the 1,500 patients – some with severe mental illnesses – were allegedly bused to California. In September, San Francisco's city attorney filed a class action lawsuit against the hospital and the state of Nevada for patient dumping. The suit alleges from 2008 to 2013, the hospital improperly discharged and sent at least two dozen indigent patients by Greyhound bus to San Francisco. The suit claims some of those transported had no connection to their destinations. The city attorney claims it cost taxpayers about $500,000 to care for them.

FOX19 contacted the Ohio Attorney General's office about the bus receipts we uncovered that show homeless patients were bused to Ohio.  A spokesperson for the Attorney General said they are unaware of the practice in Ohio, that it is concerning and they are gathering more information.

Dr. Mark Hurst, the medical director for the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services said he didn't have enough information to comment on the Rawson-Neal discharge practice, but said busing is problematic.

"Ideally we like to have the family come to Ohio to pick the person up. We really discourage bus transfers. We make sure there is someone on the other end and there's a receiving facility on the other end as well," Hurst said. "We would find it abhorrent if someone who recently had a heart attack was put on a bus and sent somewhere and told, good luck finding follow-up after you leave the hospital. We can't find that acceptable in people with mental illness either."

FOX19 Investigates also learned some cities routinely provide homeless with one-way bus tickets to other locations. Often dubbed homeless reunification programs, the goal is to reunite homeless with family and friends in other cities. There are reunification programs in cities from San Francisco to South Florida.

A spokesperson for the Family Reunification Program in Broward County, Fla. told FOX19 they've given one-way tickets to more than 3,000 people in the last 10 years. From October 2012 to October 2013, 358 travelers had been relocated – two to Indiana, 11 to Kentucky and 11 to Ohio. It's unknown what happened to them once they arrived. The spokesperson told FOX19 they call to verify arrival and conduct follow-up.

But critics charge these cities after often passing the homeless problem along.

There are roughly 7,00 homeless living on Cincinnati's streets and transitional housing. At the Drop-Inn Center, Cincinnati's largest homeless shelter, case managers recently dealt with a mentally ill man who'd been given a one-way bus ticket from Columbus.

"When we contacted Columbus, they said, 'Yes, we sent him to Cincinnati from Columbus, we can't serve him anymore, we don't know what to do with him and we don't want him back,'" said Amy Harpenau, case management director at the Drop-Inn Center. "You pass a problem along. We have no more services than Columbus can offer him. The solution is not to just pass the buck. Somebody needs to serve him and offer him what he needs."

Copyright 2013 WXIX. All rights reserved.