The mother of a woman discharged from a California mental hospital in August was outraged when she learned her daughter had landed in a Nevada emergency room without any support.
The daughter said she was dropped off by a California caseworker, an allegation arising shortly after Golden State officials took Nevada to task for busing recently discharged mental patients their way.
“How could they just dump someone that way?” Shannon Brandes said this week from her home in Quincy, Calif. “I always see a sign in California saying there’s a $1,000 fine for cruelty to animals, but I guess it’s OK to be cruel to a woman who needs help. It was so devastating for me, not to know whether my daughter was dead or alive. We were frantic, looking and calling everywhere.”
On Aug. 20, the Review-Journal reported that a young woman was mysteriously left at University Medical Center on Aug. 17. She carried paperwork showing a discharge date of Aug. 16 from Napa State Hospital, a 138-year-old public psychiatric facility in California’s wine country. She told a UMC psychiatrist that a mental health caseworker drove her to Las Vegas with the promise of a Social Security disability check and a place to say.
The woman was said to be volatile and in need of medication. A UMC psychiatrist told Dr. Dale Carrison, the hospital’s chief of staff, the woman had been in no shape to travel alone and that she had a guardian in California.
That Review-Journal report, emailed to Brandes by worried family members, gave the distraught mother hope that her daughter, diagnosed as schizophrenic, bipolar and mildly retarded, was alive.
“When we called Napa State a few days before to talk to her, and they said she had been discharged, we couldn’t believe it,” Brandes said. “No one there would tell us where she was. But when I saw your story, everything just added up.”
DISCHARGE TO LAS VEGAS
In late August, Brandes said her 26-year-old daughter, Amanda Brandes, called her grandmother, Cheryl Dold, at her home in Portola, Calif.
Dold, mother of Shannon Brandes, said that among her granddaughter’s first comments was a question: “Grandma, do you have my disability check?”
Amanda Brandes also told her grandmother she had been transferred from UMC to Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas.
“We knew for sure then that it was Amanda that had been dumped in Las Vegas,” Shannon Brandes said.
A source confirmed that it was Amanda Brandes who was left at UMC on Aug. 16.
Amanda Brandes, being treated at Rawson-Neal and unable to comment, has told relatives in phone conversations since her transfer there that her court-appointed California guardian, or conservator, Orie Carden, phoned her before her discharge and told her: “You got your wish. You’re going to Las Vegas.”
Dold said on Wednesday that she has unsuccessfully tried to reach Carden, the chief deputy public guardian in Plumas County, Calif., to find out why she apparently worked out that arrangement with her granddaughter.
Carden told the Review-Journal Wednesday that she can’t discuss the case because of privacy issues, but did say that the family law court in Plumas County terminated the guardianship earlier in August.
The court’s calendar shows a hearing for “Conservatorship of Brandes” on Aug. 12, but court officials refused to disclose what happened at the hearing.
Shannon Brandes said the reason she had a public guardian assigned to her daughter was to ensure that her daughter’s disability check wasn’t “ripped off” at the mental hospital.
“I wish now I had never done that,” Brandes said. “I should have handled everything myself.”
According to Dold, Amanda Brandes also told her that she was dropped at UMC by Irasema Tavares with the promise of a disability check and lodging. Tavares is a case manager with Plumas County Mental Health Services.
Tavares told the Review-Journal she could not answer any questions about Brandes and referred questions to Kimball Pier, director of Plumas County Mental Health. Citing privacy laws, Pier also declined to comment.
The case is now the subject of a formal investigation by California authorities. Carrison received a letter dated Aug. 28 from the office of Edwin Hoffmark, a district manager for California’s Department of Public Health.
“Once the investigation is complete, you will be notified of the findings,” the letter read in part.
Citing federal privacy laws, California officials will not talk directly about Brandes’ case. But Ralph Montano, a spokesman for the California Department of State Hospitals, did release a written statement that read:
“If a patient has a conservator and …Napa (State Hospital) receives a court order for the patient’s release, the hospital’s policy is to communicate with the conservator regarding the conservator’s discharge directions and to release the patient to the authority of the conservator.”
Montano’s statement also said, “Napa does not discharge patients to other hospitals without appropriate communications directly between hospital staff.”
A TROUBLED PAST
Amanda Brandes was born at the same hospital where her relatives now say she was “dumped like garbage.”
“Amanda was born at UMC on Aug. 2, 1987,” her grandmother said. “I was the first one who got to hold her.”
Her mother and grandmother say Amanda lived in Las Vegas until the first or second grade and then moved to Chicago with her mother, where she lived until middle school. She came back to Las Vegas and lived with her grandmother until her late teens and worked in fast food restaurants. When her grandmother moved to California, she left her granddaughter in an apartment that she secured for her.
“Then something happened; she was a good girl growing up,” said Nicole Dold, Amanda’s aunt, a Portola, Calif. resident. “She started using meth.”
Amanda dropped out of school and became pregnant. Her mother said that baby now lives with a paternal grandmother. The relationship with her boyfriend was so volatile that he caved in Amanda’s head with a bar stool, her mother said.
“I still think that did brain damage to her and caused much of her problems,” Shannon Brandes said.
On one occasion, Amanda’s aunt remembered her niece holding a ceremony to bring her dead pet iguana back to life. On other occasions, Nicole Dold said, her niece became angry because she was sure people were reading her mind. Dold added that Amanda once scared people by going near a baby crib with a knife.
Her mother remembers her daughter refusing to eat because she thought someone was trying to poison her.
Shannon Brandes said it was that behavior that sent her to mental hospitals in both Nevada and California.
“Rawson-Neal was like a revolving door for her,” she said.
Rawson-Neal lost its accreditation and was hit with a federal lawsuit in the aftermath of patient dumping allegations of its own earlier this year.
Scrutiny of the Las Vegas hospital intensified after Rawson-Neal in February discharged James F. Brown, 48, to Sacramento, Calif., with no support or family waiting for him. The state now faces a federal lawsuit filed on Brown’s behalf, and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera also has threatened legal action over patient-dumping allegations.
“I don’t know what’s going on with people who are supposed to be helping others,” Shannon Brandes said. “But I do know this. Whatever medication they give Amanda doesn’t seem to help her. I know when she gets released from Rawson-Neal we’re going to try and take care of her at home. She needs to be around people who love her.”
Review-Journal writer Yesenia Amaro contributed to this report. ntact reporter Paul Harasim at pharasim@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908.