UMC questions arrival of patient discharged from California psychiatric hospital

A woman discharged from a California mental hospital was left at University Medical Center’s emergency room Saturday afternoon, prompting hospital officials to question California authorities about the circumstances of her mysterious arrival in Las Vegas.

According to Brian Brannman, UMC’s chief executive officer, paperwork the woman was carrying showed a discharge date of Friday, Aug. 16, from Napa State Hospital, a 138-year-old public psychiatric facility in California’s wine country.

“I hope that the discharge plan was not to release her and then dump her in Las Vegas, but we know in Nevada that strange things can happen,” Brannman said Monday.

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas lost its accreditation and was hit with a federal lawsuit in the aftermath of allegations of patient dumping this year. Scrutiny of the Las Vegas hospital became intense after Rawson-Neal discharged James F. Brown, 48, to Sacramento, Calif., in February with no support or family waiting for him.

According to Dr. Dale Carrison, UMC’s chief of staff, the woman, who arrived at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, told a UMC psychiatrist that a caseworker from the Napa hospital drove her to Las Vegas with the promise of a disability check and a place to stay. Hospital officials are unaware of any connection the woman has to Las Vegas.

“I have been told by California authorities I contacted that they are looking into the situation,” said Carrison, who stressed that federal privacy laws prohibit him from revealing the woman’s name or personal medical situation detailed in the documents she carried.

Those documents, Carrison said, were clearly stamped as coming from the California state mental health system.

Ken Paglia, a public information officer for the California Department of State Hospitals said Monday evening that he was unable to reach the officials conducting the investigation.

Attempts to reach Dolly Matteucci, executive director of Napa State Hospital, were unsuccessful.

Carrison said the UMC psychiatrist told him that the woman had been in no shape to travel alone. He said no one at UMC witnessed how the woman arrived at the emergency room.

Carrison said the UMC psychiatrist told him that the woman had a guardian in California who had no idea that she had been discharged from the Napa hospital. The guardian also didn’t know how the woman had traveled to Las Vegas.

“The woman apparently was very volatile and needed medication,” Carrison said.

Napa State Hospital, a campus northeast of San Francisco that is dotted with palm, oak and redwood trees, has a history of violence.

In June, a Napa State Hospital patient attacked a nurse in what news reports described as the fifth assault at that hospital on a worker in recent years.

The Bay Citizen newspaper reported that in October 2010, a psychiatric technician was strangled inside the hospital’s “secured treatment area,” where the criminally insane reside.

Two months later, a rehabilitation therapist at the Napa hospital sustained four skull fractures when he was assaulted by a patient.

The woman will be transferred to Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital when a bed becomes available. She will remain at UMC until then, Carrison said.

Earlier this year, as investigations were launched into the patient-dumping allegations at Rawson-Neal, so many mental patients were backed up in UMC’s emergency room that ambulances had to be turned away.

“This is just crazy,” Carrison said.

Contact reporter Paul Harasim at or 702-387-2908.

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