Mental health officials in nearly every state struggle to determine best practices for treating mentally ill people who do not have significant financial means to care for themselves. It is often an expensive, but necessary proposition that can include a variety of acceptable approaches.
But one method that definitely is not acceptable is for one government to dump its psychiatric patients on other jurisdictions by purchasing one-way bus tickets to send those patients to other states. An investigation last month by the Sacramento Bee revealed that some officials in the state of Nevada apparently where engaging in just such a practice.
In fact, the practice even has a name. It is called "Greyhound Therapy." But that is just a euphemistic moniker for a practice that is not only unacceptable, but reprehensible and morally wrong.
Earlier this week, 21 California lawmakers called on both the U.S. Department of Human and Human Services and Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the practice. They are right to do so. We wholeheartedly support such an investigation and the sooner it occurs the better.
We agree with U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, who wrote in a letter requesting the investigation that such a practice " ... would not only be unethical and disgraceful, but would also be an illegal attempt by Nevada to evict members of the state's most vulnerable population to benefit its bottom line."
To be honest, we find the entire notion mind-boggling. Who could have possibly thought this was a good idea?
The Bee's investigation found that the primary hospital for the mentally ill in Nevada had bused more than 1,500 patients out of the state since 2008. The number of patients bused out of the state rose 66 percent in the last four years. At the same time, Nevada slashed its mental health spending by 28 percent as part of budget cuts.
Hmm ... coincidence? We doubt it.
After initially downplaying the newspaper's reports, Nevada state officials finally admitted this week that an internal investigation had revealed that there were 10 cases of improper transfer of patients. A spokeswoman for the state said that five employees had been disciplined and two fired because of the findings.
That's a fine beginning, but it should not be the end of things. We simply do not trust the results of a self-investigation from any state in which such a cockamamie plan could be hatched and executed, apparently for a number of years.
That is why we favor a federal investigation into the matter. Such an investigation would offer the independent review necessary and could possibly inform the question as to whether any additional and specific federal legislation might be needed.
It also would serve the additional purpose of sending a clear message to any other states that might have been dabbling in such practices that "Greyhound Therapy" is an unacceptable practice anywhere in the United States.