Tuesday, April 23, 2013 | 1:08 p.m.
In his first official reaction to an ongoing investigation into whether the psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas is routinely busing mentally ill patients out of state, Gov. Brian Sandoval said his administration took immediate action to address the situation, but downplayed any suggestion his administration has a systemic problem on its hands.
“Let me be clear, improperly discharging one patient is one patient too many," Sandoval said in a written statement. "I take the concerns regarding Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital very seriously and it is not the policy of the state of Nevada to engage in ‘patient dumping’ as been alleged."
The state Department of Health and Human Services launched multiple investigations after a mentally ill man from Las Vegas turned up on a Greyhound bus in Sacramento disoriented and lacking his proper medication. At least one internal probe resulted in the discipline of multiple employees at Rawson-Neal involved in the patient's discharge. The hospital also changed its policies to include more oversight of discharge procedures.
But a subsequent investigation by the Sacramento Bee uncovered more than 1,500 patients had been bused to locations throughout the United States. Sandoval's administration continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding each of those patient discharges.
“My administration has been and will continue to be open and transparent on whatever the findings of these investigations are," Sandoval said. " The state of Nevada has taken extra steps to ensure that when a patient is discharged, there is a proper plan in place. Rawson-Neal is safe, modern, and has a five-star accreditation. Further, I know it is the goal of the health care professionals at Rawson-Neal to provide the best care possible. I am confident that with the new strengthened discharge procedures in place Rawson-Neal will continue to treat all patients with dignity and a high standard of care.”
Mike Willden, HHS director, said the hospital has had a long-standing busing policy, which allows patients who have family or support networks in other locations to return to their communities. He said Las Vegas is a "mental health magnet" city that draws visitors suffering from various illnesses or addictions.
Sandoval has come under fire from the Nevada Democratic Party, which has been sending out press releases criticizing his initial comments that appeared supportive of the hospital and its procedures. Sandoval is up for re-election next year, prompting Democrats to amplify the critical press coverage in California.
The so-called patient-dumping scandal has spurred California officials to request investigations. Most recently, the San Francisco city attorney vowed to aggressively pursue litigation if it turns out the state of Nevada has been improperly sending mentally ill patients to his city.