Drug treatment center had more than 400 calls to 911 in 2 years

Staff alleges rehab unprepared for emergencies

RIVERVIEW, Fla. — The I-Team reported how River Oaks Residential Treatment Center in Riverview billed patients' insurance policies tens-of-thousands of dollars for frequent drug tests, potentially driving up insurance costs.

But that’s not the only issue there.

A former patient and a former manager says there are concerns about staffing levels, that can affect patient safety there.

“We don't have any fences. No fences. They can come and go as they please,” said former River Oaks Treatment Center Transportation and Security Director Mike Isom.

Isom said he often had to pick up patients who wandered away.

“It is very frustrating,” Isom said.

The 140-bed center, owned by American Addiction Centers, one of the nation’s biggest rehab companies, charges patients' insurance tens-of-thousands of dollars for abstinence-based treatment.

But Isom says many patients didn't play by the rules. 

“They would just walk out, walk down the street. Walk right here to the 7-11 go in there, pop a cold one. Pop a cold 40,” he said.

Former patient Rachel says other patients bragged about using drugs or alcohol.

“We all knew and we knew the ones who did it. They had no shame in saying I ran down to the gas station, I got me some 4 Locos,” she said.

Records show there were 433 911 calls from River Oaks in less than two years.

Most were made at night, on weekends or during holidays, when most administrative staff was gone.

Calls included medical emergencies, assaults, mentally ill patients and missing persons.

“It would really make me angry. Because I’m legitimately here trying to get coping mechanisms to help me get sober, and this was not conducive to that,” Rachel said.

River Oaks declined an interview, but said in a statement "We have worked extensively to reduce our impact and use of these services."

“Outside of the administrative staff, River Oaks is similarly staffed on evenings and weekends as compared to weekday shifts. This includes a team of RNs, LPNs, Therapists, Case Managers, BHTs, BHT Supervisors and a Nurse Manager. Physicians and other Medical Providers are also onsite 7 days per week. Key administrative staff also provide 7-day, 24-hour on call coverage,” the statement said.

But Isom says River Oaks often didn't have doctors or psychiatric staff after hours to handle mental health emergencies. 

“They're psychotic. They're out of their mind when they come off that plane,” he said. “They're coming from all across the country.”

In December 2016, a patient from Illinois was detained for causing a disturbance at Tampa International Airport when he arrived at 1:30 a.m.

Isom says surveillance video at River Oaks showed he was agitated when he arrived there an hour later.

“You can see the client, along with the behavioral tech, walking up and down the hallway. You can see how stressed he was,” Isom said.

A report from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office says that at 3:15 a.m., the patient walked out of admissions building, followed by an employee in a golf cart.

That employee watched him step in front of a moving vehicle on Boyette Road, which struck and killed him.

The patient's family has hired an attorney.

River Oaks said, in a statement, “While we cannot discuss any specific individual due to federal confidentiality laws, we can share that the administrative rule under which we operate sets forth our coverage obligations… each facility shall have a physician on call at all times to address medical problems and to provide emergency medical services. River Oaks meets or exceeds all of its staffing requirements.”

If you have information you’d like to share with the I-Team about your experience with residential drug treatment, please contact us here.

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