A Las Vegas psychiatric hospital has been accused of busing its patients off to cities across the country, and leaving them there.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera launched an investigation on Monday into the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital's alleged "dumping" of mental health patients, NBC Bay Area reported.
Since July 2008, the hospital has dispatched more than 1,500 patients to cities all over the country by Greyhound bus, with a third of the them ending up in California, according to The Sacramento Bee, who broke the news that prompted authorities to launch an investigation.
Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is also investigating, according to NBC Los Angeles.
"We got preliminary reports about three to four weeks ago on this issue and immediately opened up a criminal investigation," Trutanich said. "We were looking at it, at first from the civil side, and we realized that the 150 patients allegedly have been dumped."
Rawson-Neal puts patients on buses with a one-way ticket and are given a ration of Ensure and just enough medication to last for the duration of the bus ride, according to The Bee.
The practice does not break protocol, but the hospital has come under scrutiny for placing patients on buses unchaperoned and without confirming that there is shelter waiting for them on the other side.
The story came to light after a schizophrenic man from Rawson-Neal showed up in Sacramento confused, suicidal and without medication or identification.
Last year, the hospital bused out patients at a pace of well over one a day, with 400 patients deployed to 176 cities and 45 states, according to The Bee.
San Francisco's Herrera slammed the hospital for the alleged practice, which he says takes "advantage of our most vulnerable, putting them on a bus with a one way ticket to somewhere with no support."
Trutanich said the practice is a form of human trafficking and is prohibited under state and local ordinances.
"The reason you dump patients is you want to get out from under the cost of them," Trutanich said. "You jeopardize their safety, and we have no idea what the elements are that these individuals who have been dumped, allegedly have been dumped onto our streets, are suffering from."
The hospital has not responded to the allegations, but Nevada's Depatment of Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden said in a statement on Monday that Rawson-Neal “has maintained its high quality of certification and accreditation.”
“Nevada DHHS is reviewing the approximate 1,500 discharges that included out of state transportation over the past five years,” he said, adding that the practice "appears not to be systemic, with the failure occurring at the clinical level.