CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Gov. Brian Sandoval announced Monday the creation of a council to examine the state’s mental health system after a new round of claims involving allegations that Nevada bused mentally ill patients out of state, many to California.
Sandoval, a first-term Republican, established the Behavioral Health and Wellness Council by executive order.
It follows a series of investigations by The Sacramento Bee newspaper that detailed incidents of patients at Nevada’s primary psychiatric hospital in Las Vegas being provided one-way bus tickets.
On Sunday, the Bee reported that in recent years the busing of those patients often led to crime and tragedy in other cities around the country.
“Gov. Sandoval is appalled by this new information and is disturbed by these allegations,” Mary-Sarah Kinner, the governor’s communications director, said in an email. “An investigation is underway and those responsible will be held accountable. This type of conduct is indefensible.”
The 20-member council will include state administrators, legislators, veterans representatives, public and private mental health providers, law enforcement, members of the judicial system and patients or family members of mental health patients.
Sandoval also could appoint representatives of other states or jurisdictions, according to his order.
The goal of the council is it “further identify and address mental health needs in the state,” Kinner said.
In his executive order, Sandoval called for reports to be submitted to his office by Dec. 31 and May 31 every year.
The Bee’s investigation began early this year and found that more than 1,000 people over the past three years were given bus tickets shortly after they arrived at Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital. More than 300 boarded buses to California, where some patients said they knew no one.
The newspaper tracked passenger names and compared them to criminal databases around the country. The Bee’s analysis found more than 50 matches between names of mental patients bused out of Nevada and suspects facing criminal charges in Las Vegas.
After the first series of stories, Nevada health officials imposed new protocol requiring any patients being sent out of to state to be accompanied by a chaperone. Two staff members were fired and three others were disciplined.
In September, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued Nevada in California Superior Court, claiming it has wrongfully and intentionally bused psychiatric patients to the city and declined to pay the costs associated with their care.