LAS VEGAS (AP) — A U.S. psychiatric patient has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing Nevada officials of giving him a one-way bus ticket to neighboring California, where he arrived without money and identification in a city where he didn't know anyone and had never been.
"I'm a victim of patient dumping," James Flavey Coy Brown said Wednesday during a news conference describing the lawsuit filed on his behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.
The complaint filed Tuesday seeks class-action status for Brown and as many as 1,500 people his lawyers say were bused since 2008 from Nevada to almost every state in the U.S.
Brown is the only named plaintiff. The lawsuit makes nine claims, including negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. It seeks an immediate court order to stop Nevada from sending psychiatric patients out of state, unspecified damages for Brown and others and a declaration that patients' civil rights were violated.
"Simply placing people on buses to destinations where they know no one and have no means of getting necessary psychiatric, medical and even personal care is both improper and illegal," said Allen Lichtenstein, ACLU of Nevada general counsel.
A spokeswoman for Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said Wednesday the state hadn't received a copy of the lawsuit, but her office would defend the state agencies and employees.
Brown, 48, said he moved to Las Vegas in 2011, after it became increasingly hard to get mental health services in his home state of South Carolina.
Brown said he received psychiatric treatment several times over the years at a for-profit hospital before he was admitted Feb. 9 to the state's Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas.
The lawsuit says a psychiatrist ordered him discharged Feb. 13 and he was taken to a Greyhound bus station where he was given a pre-paid ticket to Sacramento, bottles of a liquid nutritional supplement and three days of anti-psychotic medication.
At least three other patients from Rawson-Neal were in the same taxi to the bus station, and each had a ticket to a different California city, said lawyer Mark Merin, who also filed the lawsuit. He said he believed hundreds of people may been bused to cities where they had no family, no friends, no contacts and no firm housing arrangements.
Brown arrived "homeless, confused and anxious" in Sacramento after a 15-hour bus ride, according to his lawsuit. After a day on the streets, he arrived at a hospital emergency room where officials found him space at a psychiatric hospital.
Brown has since been reunited with his daughter and lives with her family in North Carolina.
Lichtenstein and Merin credited the Sacramento Bee newspaper with exposing Brown's experience. City attorneys in Los Angeles and San Francisco announced in April that they were launching criminal investigations.
"Rawson Neal Psychiatric Hospital has been, and continues to be an accredited and licensed facility," said Nevada governor's spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner.
Associated Press writer Ken Ritter contributed to this report.