At the moment a bipolar Canadian man walked out the door of Valley Hospital in July, he was on his own with nothing but his mania-driven mind to guide him.
Stuart Ghertner, a former director of Southern Nevada Adult Mental Services, said these cases are similar to recent “patient dumping” stories in which the Sacramento Bee detailed how patients at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital were discharged via Greyhound to cities throughout the United States.
These situations are “more and more of the same thing, only these are coming out of the private sector, not the state system,” he said.
Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital
He said that, as a rule, private hospitals don’t have psychiatric units, given that they produce little, if any, income. As a result, they tend to simply hold the patients until they can be transferred to Rawson-Neal. But in these cases, the patients lingered at the hospitals and “wound up being discharged without getting appropriate care,” Ghertner said.
Unlike most other states, local jurisdictions have no responsibility to care for the mentally ill or substance abusers. The Nevada Constitution mandates only that the state must run “institutions for the benefit of the insane.”
That leaves a single state hospital — 450 miles from the state capital — responsible for the mentally ill who live in Southern Nevada and visitors who are drawn to Las Vegas for its happy-go-lucky reputation.
Meanwhile, Las Vegas’ private emergency rooms, jails and prisons have become widely acknowledged as de facto mental health institutions in Nevada.