LAS VEGAS (CN) - Often drugged and disoriented, patients at a Las Vegas psychiatric hospital found themselves involuntarily discharged, bused to a new city and left with no means to continue treatment or even live, according to a class action lawsuit.
Lead plaintiff James Flavy Coy Brown claims officials at the state-run Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas booted out patients and sent them to out-of-state destinations, where hospital officials knew the patients "would be unable to obtain proper treatment, care and housing."
Brown claims that says he and other patients "were medicated before their discharge and required to leave the facility under the influence of powerful anti-psychotic / tranquilizing medication."
He claims that he and others "were in a drugged and sometime psychotic state and incompetent to give informed consent" when hospital staff "physically escorted them from the facility to waiting taxis bound for the Greyhound bus station in Las Vegas. They were then directed and required to travel on pre-paid tickets which had been previously ordered and paid for by Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services."
Southern Nevada Adult Mental Health Services, lead defendant in the lawsuit in Clark County Court, runs the Rawson-Neal hospital, which opened in August 2006 and has about 190 beds for patients.
Brown says he was admitted to the hospital on Feb. 9, 2013, and was involuntarily discharged and sent on a Greyhound bus to Sacramento two days later.
Before sending him to Sacramento, Brown says, the defendants gave him "three days of powerful anti-psychotic medications and bottles of Ensure for the 15-hour bus ride."
Upon arrival, Brown says, he was "homeless, confused and anxious" and was taken by local police to a homeless service center that could not provide housing, treatment or transportation. Staff at the University of California at Davis Medical Center eventually got him into the Heritage Oaks psychiatric hospital, which placed him in a group home.
Brown's lawsuit, filed Monday, claims that the Sacramento Bee investigated his dumping in Sacramento and reported that the hospital had dumped some 1,500 patients in locations across the nation since 2008, "all with minimum provisions to sustain them during the protracted bus rides."
The complaint claims that a random survey of 30 cases conducted by the Nevada Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance showed many violations of state and federal laws, and indicated that no steps were taken to ensure that discharged patients could continue obtaining help or treatment when they arrived at various destinations.
Brown filed a similar class action in Federal Court in June 2013. U.S. District Judge James Mahan dismissed that complaint in February this year, ruling that mentally ill patients are capable of giving informed consent to being sent out of town, and that Nevada was merely allocating resources by giving them the rides.
But a state investigation resulted in two hospital employees being fired while several others faced lesser punishments for their roles in discharging patients in recent years, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
Brown seeks class certification, declaratory judgment, an injunction and punitive damages for professional negligence, gross negligence, negligence per se, negligent hiring, supervision and training, and breach of fiduciary duty.
Also named as defendants are hospital administrator Chelsea Szklany, Nevada Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden and Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health Administrator Richard Whitley, hospital Associate Medical Director Leon Ravin, Dr. Anurag Gupta, Nevada Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance Chief Kyle Devine and Nevada Psychiatric Medical Director Linda J. White.
Brown is represented by Allen Lichtenstein.