What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas — it gets a one-way bus ticket out of town.
Just ask 1,500 mentally ill patients from the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas. As far back as 2008, they were discharged and sent on bus trips to places where many had no families, friends or contacts, according to an investigative series in the Sacramento Bee.
"It's offensive to me that they would show this lack of care for a client," Jo Robinson, director of San Francisco's Behavioral Health Services department, told the Bee.
Over a five-year period, in a practice Robinson called "patient dumping," about 500 patients had been shipped to California. Others were sent on lengthy bus trips to places as far away as Boston or Miami.
Earlier this year, James Flavy Coy Brown was given a three-day supply of anti-psychotic medication, four bottles of Ensure and some peanut butter crackers, then sent on a 15-hour bus ride to Sacramento, Calif., a city he had never visited and where he knew nobody.
Brown, 48, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, eventually turned up at a Sacramento-area emergency room, where he lingered for several days before officials could find housing and other assistance.
Though Brown has now been reunited with his daughter, the fate of hundreds of other patients who were shipped from Las Vegas to other states remains unknown.
Mental illness is believed to affect one in five adults, according to research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The finding highlights the need for a shift in attitude toward mental illness, experts say, because it affects so many people.
"Discharging severely mentally ill patients inappropriately is policy in this country," DJ Jaffe, executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org, told the Bee.
"But getting rid of them altogether by busing them out of state is, I think, rare. I am shocked by these figures. It seems to be almost routine in Nevada," Jaffe said.