LAS VEGAS (AP) — A psychiatric patient has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in Nevada accusing state officials of giving him a one-way bus ticket to Northern California, where he arrived, scared and disoriented, without money and identification in a city where he didn’t know anyone and had never been.
“I’m a victim of patient dumping,” James Flavey Coy Brown declared Wednesday during a news conference describing the lawsuit filed on his behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and Sacramento, Calif.-based lawyer Mark Merin.
“We were dumped off like unwanted people,” Brown said. “We’re not supposed to be treated that way. Because we’re human beings.”
The complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas seeks class-action status for Brown and as many as 1,500 people his lawyers claim were bused since 2008 from Nevada to almost every state in the U.S.
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Brown is the only named plaintiff. The lawsuit that makes nine claims, including negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. It seeks an immediate court order to stop Nevada from sending psychiatric patients out of state, unspecified damages for Brown and others, and a declaration that patients’ civil rights were violated.
“It’s unfortunate that litigation is required to ensure that patients aren’t given ‘Greyhound therapy,’” said Allen Lichtenstein, ACLU of Nevada general counsel.
“Simply placing people on buses to destinations where they know no one and have no means of getting necessary psychiatric, medical and even personal care is both improper and illegal,” he said.
Defendants are six state agencies including the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, the Division of Mental Health and Development Services and the Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance, plus eight individual hospital and state agency administrators.
A spokeswoman for state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said Wednesday the state hadn’t received a copy of the lawsuit, but her office would defend the Nevada agencies and employees.
Brown, 48, said he moved to Las Vegas in 2011, after it became increasingly hard to get mental health services in his home state of South Carolina.
In Las Vegas, a community mental health agency helped him get an apartment where he lived on his Social Security disability payments for two years. Brown said he received psychiatric treatment several times over the years at a for-profit hospital before he was admitted Feb. 9 to the state’s Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas.
Brown as diagnosed at with psychosis and reported hearing voices and thoughts of suicide, according to the lawsuit. It says a psychiatrist ordered him discharged Feb. 13 and he was taken to a Greyhound bus station where he was given a pre-paid ticket to Sacramento, bottles of a liquid nutritional supplement and three days of anti-psychotic medication.
Merin told reporters that at least three other patients from Rawson-Neal were in the same taxi to the bus station, and that each had a ticket to a different California city. He said he believed hundreds of people may been bused to cities where they had no family, no friends, no contacts and no firm housing arrangements.