SMYRNA, Ga. - A drug rehabilitation center in Smyrna called police to force a resident to leave the facility who had tested positive weeks after arriving for in-patient treatment.
Michael McKeen of Fayette County said Ridgeview Institute repeatedly ignored safety protocols and may have exposed other patients and staff.
“I’m very upset with the way I was treated,” said McKeen, 48. “I think they’re putting people’s lives at risk.”
McKeen spoke to the FOX 5 I-Team from a Smyrna hotel room, his home since Ridgeview ordered him out following his positive test result.
It’s hard enough to beat an opioid addiction. Try doing that on your own while also suddenly sick with COVID-19.
“I was scared to death,” he said. “To be honest with you, still scared to death. Now I’ve got the disease, and it’s just like they cut me loose.”
Ridgeview Institute markets itself as "Georgia's first choice in mental health and addiction treatment for over 40 years."
According to medical records he provided, McKeen was admitted to Ridgeview Institute on July 7.
What McKeen said happened next was confirmed by multiple other residents who asked us not to share their names right now.
McKeen said a female patient in his therapy class tested positive for COVID-19. Ridgeview then tested McKeen, but he said not before letting the rest of the class mingle with patients in other parts of the facility.
“They put us all back in with everybody else,” he complained.
According to his paperwork, on July 23 McKeen’s results came back. And so did his worst fear.
He had the virus.
“After I tested positive, they put me right back in the room with my roommates,” he said. “And they hadn’t tested positive.”
The medical records indicated on July 24th Ridgeview told McKeen he had to leave because they were “unable to quarantine patients.”
But McKeen’s wife and teenage son live with him in a 900-square foot rental home in Woolsey. No room to quarantine there, either.
“They told me to go home and isolate.,” he said. “How am I going to go home and isolate when I have a 15-year-old child and a wife?”
Michael McKeen refused to leave Ridgeview after contracting COVID-19, fearing he would infect his wife and teenage son. So Ridgeview called police. (photo courtesy of Michael McKeen)
So Ridgeview called Smyrna police. After police talked to McKeen by phone, he agreed to move into a nearby hotel.
The Cobb County Board of Health said Ridgeview has reported four positive tests, all of them since June. It’s unclear whether that included these latest cases.
Residents and former employees complain to the FOX 5 I-Team Ridgeview could do much more to prevent the spread of this virus.
The National Council for Behavioral Health, which sets COVID-19 standards for facilities like Ridgeview, says all patients, staff and visitors should be required to wear masks “while awake.”
Former employees and current residents said Ridgeview rarely followed that standard.
“Once they had someone test positive, they come up with you have to wear a mask,” McKeen explained. “But before that, they were running around freely like they was in no danger to anything.”
In fact, Ridgeview’s COVID-19 website made little mention of mask requirements, except to solicit the public for mask donations and other supplies.
Residents also said they’re not COVID tested unless someone shows symptoms.
Ridgeview did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
“They were requiring us to go back in there and have a class the very next day that she tested positive,” complained McKeen.
Ridgeview did offer McKeen the option of getting addiction therapy off-site through a video chat. But that would require knowing how to use that feature on his cell phone.
McKeen struggled for nearly an hour just to use his phone for our Zoom interview. His body constantly shifted as he struggled with the side effects of opiate withdrawal.
He said the virus has caused headaches, a fever and constant sweating. His wife drives the 80-mile roundtrip to bring his supplies.
Two separate struggles, being fought all alone.