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Adam Swanson

Senior Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Patient Protection Act: Bill Would Prevent Dumping Patients Upon Discharge

October 10, 2013 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Following public outcry over reports of hospitals shipping patients with mental illnesses across state lines upon discharge, Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA-6) has introduced the Patient Protection Act (H.R. 3128). The bill would allow the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to impose a penalty of up to $10,000 on hospitals that release patients from their care and put them onto buses without establishing appropriate continuing treatment plans. The National Council supports this bill.

The bill was introduced on the heels of a Sacramento Bee investigation involving 48-year-old James Flary Coy Brown and the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada. In February, Brown was discharged from Rawson-Neal and was put onto a bus headed for California with minimal food and a three-day supply of his medications. Brown was not given any medication refills, doctor referrals, or even access to his Social Security payments. He was only told to call 911 upon his arrival in Sacramento. Advocates decried the use of so-called ‘Greyhound therapy’ as a flagrant attempt to shift responsibility for the care of people with mental illness to other states.

According to the Bee, since 2008, the Rawson-Neal Hospital has transported more than 1,500 patients to other cities via Greyhound bus — sending at least one person to every state in the continental United States. “So-called ‘Greyhound therapy,’ the appalling practice of giving individuals recovering from a serious psychiatric episode a bus ticket and a bag of psychotropic medications upon discharge from inpatient hospitals, should be prohibited everywhere in the United States,” said Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO of the National Council.

“It is both irresponsible and inhumane to send individuals who are not fully aware of their surroundings to an unfamiliar city, without a treatment plan or doctor awaiting their arrival,” said Congresswoman Matsui.  “This legislation seeks to deter this activity and protect patients, by creating financial penalties for truly egregious cases.”