I-Team: Nevada Deals with Fallout of Alleged Mental Patient Dump - 8 News NOW

I-Team: NV Deals with Fallout of Alleged Mental Patient Dumping

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LAS VEGAS -- Nevada's alleged dumping of mentally ill patients in other states has made headlines across the country. The fallout has cost jobs, confidence in the system, and possibly federal funding.

Nevada's top state health officer, Dr. Tracey Green admits it's been a rough few weeks. While the I-Team has talked, by phone, to state officials at length about many of these issues, until now, there hasn't been a face-to-face interview.

Dr. Green wants everyone to know that Nevada does not dump its mentally ill patients.

For weeks, the media has screamed the words "patient dumping," accusing Nevada of sending it's mentally ill to other states.

"Nevada's Shame" reads one headline; "Greyhound Therapy" is another one. All are references to the state's practice of helping patients travel by bus out-of-state largely to reunite with family or friends.

Dr. Tracey Green is the medical director for the state's Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services.

"I think it's a very effective policy right now," said Dr. Green. "I think the key to that is, once they are discharged from our hospital, they are stable and they are able to contribute to the plans for their future."

According to a recent state review over the last five years, some 1,500 patients have received transportation assistance to other states. Slightly more than 500 of them went to California. Of those, 10 or less than one percent, may have been put on buses without a support system on the other end. Patients like James Brown, a homeless schizophrenic man, who claims he was bused to Sacramento despite having no ties to the city.

"When you're discharging and you tell us that you wish to be in another state for whatever reason, maybe you've learned about resources there, or you have family there, or treatment there, then we assist you. But it's not part of our usual discharge planning to just offer up another state," Green said.

California officials, however remain unconvinced, and the city attorneys of both Los Angeles and San Francisco have opened investigations. Of greater concern, is a recent letter from the federal centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, warning that Nevada is out of compliance with federal regulations. It's all related to discharge documentation, according to the state. Officials have 10 days to submit an acceptable corrective action plan or risk federal funding.

I-Team: "Do you have any reason to think you won't be able to come into compliance?"

Green: "No, I don't."

The state has already strengthened its discharge policy, requiring additional medical review administrative oversight and a chaperone, for out-of-state travel. A more difficult fix however is restoring public confidence in what many consider an already inadequate system.

"We're under a lot of scrutiny and we believe that after all of this is done, what others will see is that we're doing a good job here in a very difficult situation and we're going to continue to do a better job," Green said.

Two state employees were fired Monday for failing to follow the discharge policy. Three others were disciplined. Going forward, the state plans to bring in an outside consultant to take another look at the system.

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