Mental health lawsuit

Last month, this page pointed out that when Nevada cuts back its mental health care system, we end up losing that savings — and then some — through other costs, from emergency room waits to burdens on jails.

Add a major lawsuit to that list.

The ACLU of Nevada and Sacramento, Calif.-based civil rights attorney Mark Merin sued the state in federal court Tuesday over improper patient discharges and transports by the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas. The issue made regional news earlier this year when patient James F. Brown was bused from Las Vegas to Sacramento despite having no support there and no ties to the city. Since that story broke, the state has fired and disciplined employees involved in improper releases, changed discharge and transport policies — including chaperones for patients moved to other states — and hired national experts on best practices.

Mr. Brown appears to have a legitimate civil rights claim. The lawsuit might very well lead to more plaintiffs — and a different picture of what transpired at Rawson-Neal. ACLU general counsel Allen Lichtenstein said the findings of the hospital’s internal investigation were inaccurate, and that the state’s response has been inadequate.

If this case gives the public a more accurate idea of how the state runs the psychiatric hospital, good. That might compel lawmakers to make major improvements in mental health care. If the goal is to enrich a handful of people at the public’s expense — thus diverting more resources away from needed services — that good will be limited.

But one way or another, we’re going to pay for this mess. Some bills will arrive sooner rather than later.

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