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April 8, 2013
Editorial: Nevada needs to atone for patient dumping

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(April 8 -- By the Editorial Board)

Nevada authorities say they're sorry for how they treated James Flavy Coy Brown, who at age 48 has been battling mental illness for his entire adult life.

But Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Nevada Legislature need to provide more than lip service, and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, whose underlings say they're investigating, must focus on the reasons behind Nevada's mistreatment of Brown and possibly many others.

In a very real sense, Brown's treatment and his mistreatment is a tale of two states, Nevada and California. Nevada failed. At least California is trying and is succeeding, as The Bee's Cynthia Hubert showed in her account of Brown on Sunday.

Nevada authorities housed Brown at the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas. On Feb. 11, they sent him by Greyhound bus to Sacramento, a city where he had never been and had no relatives.

To tide him over on the bus ride, Nevada supplied him with a three-day supply of antipsychotic medication, four bottles of Ensure and what he called "cheesy peanut butter crackers."

Once he got off the bus - in 30-degree weather - Brown turned to Sacramento police officers, who, he said, treated him with respect and brought him to Loaves & Fishes.

After a night in a shelter, a Loaves & Fishes social worker directed him to UC Davis Medical Center. A Regional Transit cop helped him find his way, he told Hubert.

At the medical center, a psychiatrist showed simple kindness by allowing him to watch a few Netflix movies on the psychiatrist's account. Brown remained there until social workers could find him a bed in a psych facility.

By March 11, Brown was in the care of Turning Point Community Programs. The nonprofit social services organization is funded by Proposition 63, the 2004 voter-approved initiative that generates $1 billion a year for people with mental illness, particularly homeless people. The safety net worked in this instance.

Hubert's reporting illustrated how slipshod Nevada's care was of Brown. Strikingly, in an afternoon, Hubert located Brown's daughter living in North Carolina. The daughter, a nurse, plans to come to California later this week, and hopes to bring her father back to live in North Carolina. Nevada could have done the same, if it cared enough.

Unlike Nevada authorities, Turning Point won't let Brown show up in North Carolina unannounced. Turning Point social workers plan to make certain that a North Carolina mental health care worker will be waiting for Brown, and will help him find services.

Hubert's story casts doubt on Nevada's contention that Brown's mistreatment was an aberration. Legislators in Carson City held one hearing. That's hardly sufficient. If Nevada won't ask the tough questions, the federal government must. A civil rights issue is at stake, not to mention simple human decency.

Nevada must make amends. Gov. Sandoval should start by fully paying for Brown's daughter's fare to California, and Brown's trip back to North Carolina - and not on Greyhound. He also might want to spring for some meals that don't include Ensure and cheesy peanut butter crackers.

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