(CBS News) San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera has filed a lawsuit against the state of Nevada, seeking reimbursement for the treatment of psychiatric patients allegedly bused over the border and dropped on the streets of California cities.
Herrera has called the practice "Greyhound therapy" and told CBS News' Ben Tracy that, in his view, "Nevada saw that this was an easy way to shirk its responsibility. The individuals [were] shipped to California with no means of support, no family, no medical care awaiting them."
Herrera claims the patients have been improperly discharged from a state-run psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas and sent to California since 2008. He used flyers over the course of a three-month investigation into the practice to find potential victims and claims that of the 500 patients sent to California 24 of them were sent to San Francisco, where they had no prior connections. Their medical care costs are estimated to cost the city up to $500,000.
Officials in Nevada declined to speak on camera, but Tracy reports they categorically deny dumping patients in San Francisco or in other cities. The officials said they have reviewed nearly 1,500 cases in the past five years involving patients transported out of the state and determined that only 10 of them may have been improperly discharged.
Herrera responds to those claims with incredulity: "It's tough for me to put a lot of credence in the numbers of a facility that was actively involved in the effort ... I think their information is incorrect."
Forty-eight-year-old James Brown - formerly a patient at the Nevada-based treatment center and now part of an ACLU lawsuit filed against the hospital - said he was sent on a 15-hour bus ride to Sacramento, Calif., where he has no family or support. He claims the Nevada hospital gave him medication for his schizophrenia and instructed him to call 911 when he arrived.
"We were dumped off like unwanted people," he said. "We're not supposed to be treated that way."
The alleged practice first came under fire in February, when a patient at Rawson-Neal hospital in Nevada was given a bus ticket and arrived at a homeless complex in Sacramento confused and suicidal.
Nevada officials admit that mistakes were made but insist their policy has always been to release patients to their "home communities" or to a location where they have "family and/or mental health support." Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said an in-state investigation proved that there is no systemic patient discharge problem in Nevada.
"We were able to determine that existing policies and procedures were not followed. We have since then strengthened those policies and improved those," Sandoval said in April.