BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - It’s a problem some California mental health professionals experience every year. ‘Patient dumping,’ leaves mentally-ill people on a one-way ticket to unfamiliar places.
Bus stations are often the address found on discharge papers and mental health advocates say it’s an easy practice, but its also very immoral that can cost counties thousands of dollars.
Dr. Jim Waterman is familiar with the term ‘patient dumping.’
“We actually had someone arrive at the bus station and they were 51/50, put on a voluntary by law enforcement because they were wondering around the bus station and they really didn't know where they were and they were disorientated and a danger to themselves and others," he said.
A few years ago it was a practice happening too many times in Kern County.
“This really is an attempt to get the person out of that hospital's jurisdiction. Maybe the hospital isn't going to get paid for those services or the local treatment entity is overwhelmed or whatever so, it kind of a classic strategy. Its considered to be, very unethical, but it happens," said Waterman.
Patients with mental health problems found in cities not familiar to them can cost counties up to 230,000 a year, if a person is sent to a state hospital.
“It just seems so irresponsible," said Molly Simones of Friendship Park.
Patients often end up in homeless shelters and leaders with a center in Sacramento recently had that problem when a man was dumped by his provider.
"He was just very sacred and lost and confused," she said.
California Senator Darrell Steinberg promises new legislation to improve the problem. He's writing the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human services requesting a federal probe into interstate patient dumping.
"Because of their disability, that's the reason why they put them on a bus and say here you're somebody else's problem. That to me violates civil rights," said Steinberg.
There is a current agreement in Kern County that was set a few years ago to allow treatment of dumped patients only if those providers sending people agree to follow-up and get patients when they're ready to leave care.