NV hospital accused of busing mentally ill to Colorado, others

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) --Nevada health officials are reviewing their patient transportation policies in response to a new report that shows one center has been sending its discharged psychiatric patients to cities across the country.

A report by the Sacramento Bee shows a handful of Las Vegas mental health patients were brought to Grand Junction by bus in the last five years. Local officials say there is strict protocol for sending patients and discharged patients to other states, and it's crucial these rules are followed for the health of both the patient and the community.

A mentally ill patient can be transported to another hospital, but they can also be discharged when deemed healthy.

"There’s forms to fill out, and the sending hospital has to contact the receiving hospital," Colorado West president and CEO Sharon Raggio said. "[A discharged patient] no longer requires a psychiatric hospital level of care."

Right now, though, a Las Vegas psychiatric hospital is under investigation, accused of busing hundreds of patients to other states without a support system on the other end.

"We started looking into all of our cases where transportation assistance was provided out of state," Nevada Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Mary Woods said.

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services says it has a client transportation policy, but it wants to know if the rules were followed in some 1,500 cases in the past five years.

"These aren't people that are being transported to another mental health facility. These are people that have been discharged, so they're stable," Woods said.

According to the Sacramento Bee, seven of those patients ended up in Grand Junction, another one in Montrose.

"Psychiatric hospitals are expected to have a disposition for patients who are leaving a psychiatric hospital," Raggio said.

"Some patients with complex medical issues to include mental health patients do move around a lot, and we try to have a safety net in place for them," Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Hospital spokesperson Paul Sweeney added.

Both Colorado West and the VA medical center work with patients dealing with mental illnesses.
They say it's not as simple as sending someone off with a bus ticket, and instead requires attention, consults and follow up appointments in the new city, because ultimately, sending a person with nothing can be detrimental.

"We have arranged for medical transport, but we would never send a veteran who needs an escort to another city if they didn't have one," Sweeney said.

"It happens a handful of times during the course of a year where someone will get off of a bus and be ill," Raggio said. "[We follow protocol] to make sure people aren't falling through the cracks and then being readmitted again."

Nevada's Department of Health and Human Services says with the investigation it has since changed its transportation policy. That includes having discharged patients chaperoned back to

Colorado West says it is audited regularly to make sure it is properly transporting its patients among other practices.

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