Accusations of Patient Dumping

Patients allegedly bussed from mental hospitals to other states.
4:18 | 05/02/13

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Transcript for Accusations of Patient Dumping
And here at home, abc news is back with a hidden america investigation. Part of our ongoing series to shine light on people and places often overlooked. Tonight an investigation into what is happening to some of the most vulnerable people in this country. Pushed out of hospitals when they could still be a risk to themselves and others, with a one-way ticket out of town. Critics call it patient-dumping. Abc's cecilia vega has our hidden america report tonight. Reporter: James brown said the doctor game him a choice -- he said, what state do you want to go to? I said, I don't want to leave nevada. Reporter: Psychotic, depressed, thinking of suicide. James brown found himself at rauson neal, nevada's largest mental hospital. 72 hours later, the doctor said it was time to go. He said california sounds like a really nice state, i think you'll be happy there. Reporter: And that's where the hospital sent him, to sacramento. Brown was alone with just -- six bottles of ensure and three days of medication. Reporter: -- And a greyhound ticket. One way. To a city he'd never been. Why california? What's waiting for me there? I'm already -- I'm already scared enough. Reporter: Records show the hospital issued bus tickets to nearly 1,500 patients. "The sacramento bee" found that over the last five years those patients went to just about every state in the u.S. Critics call it patient dumping, a way to avoid providing expensive care in an already overburdened system. Abc news also reviewed medical records, bus receipts and six years' worth of hospital error reports. This former hospital worker, who spoke exclusively to abc news and asked us to disguise his identity says that he saw several patients put on buses who were nowhere ready for discharge, clearly unstable. There was this one female patient drooling and stuttering. She's not able to communicate with us. She got discharged on our shift. Reporter: Is it or has it ever been the policy of the state of nevada to engage in patient dumping? It has never been our policy to patient dump and the term offends me. Reporter: Nevada maintains in most cases, the hospital was helping patients who asked to go home. But the head of the state's mental health system, mike willden, now admits ten patients were improperly discharged, including james brown. It is not systemic. But it's serious. Can you give me an example of where these ten folks ended up? No. I can, I mean. Why not? ten. What are the other states if you know off of the top of your head? I am not going to say. Why not? I don't think it's appropriate at this time. Doesn't the public have a right to know where ten people ended up who maybe shouldn't have ended up there? They may as we go along. Reporter: Mike willden said other states dump on nevada. I'm not saying it's right. I'm saying it happens. Reporter: After we and others asked for answers, the hospital changed its policy, including requiring schaap rons for all bus trips. They also fired two employees. Meanwhile cities around the country are searching for others who may have come from las vegas. No medicine. No treatment. No re. People who he mental issues, just dumped. Reporter: As for james brown, after a 16-hour bus ride it a strange city, a social worker and the sacramento bee helped him connect with his daughter on the east coast. Relief. Hope. And some dignity. My daughter's given me all those things back that I didn't have. Reporter: One person lost, and now found. Welcome home. Reporter: But the question remains. How many others are still out there? Cecilia vega, abc news, las vegas, nevada. Officials still looking for people who had this happen to them. If you know someone, let cecilia vega and our hidden america team here at abc news, know.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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