CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — The family of a mentally disabled man is suing a Georgia behavioral health system, saying its employees forced him onto a bus to Atlanta where he wandered the streets and suffered from hypothermia.
The lawsuit was filed this week against Riverwoods Behavioral Health in Clayton County and the company that operates it.
Mario Scott went to a hospital in Jackson, Georgia, in January to have his medication refilled, and a doctor filled out paperwork that had him sent to Riverwoods, according to the lawsuit.
Staff members asked sheriff’s deputies to try and locate Scott’s mother, who cared for him, but she wasn’t home because she was hospitalized for COVID-19 at the time, the lawsuit states.
Tawanda Scott, Mario’s sister-in-law, said the family dropped off clothes and provided a contact number at Riverwoods early in his stay but never got a call from Riverwoods.
“The moment we found out he was here, I called Riverwoods and left my husband Bruce’s contact information for emergency contact,” Scott said.
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The lawsuit claims workers at the center forced Scott onto a bus bound for Atlanta, which dropped him off at a homeless shelter in the city. But Scott never checked into the shelter, and was instead “wandering the streets and was suffering from hypothermia,” the family’s lawyers, Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys, said in a statement.
“The bus driver was interviewed and stated that Mario Scott continued telling him ‘I don’t want to go to Atlanta,’” Butts County Sheriff Gary Long told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne at the time.
Scott was eventually reunited with his mother after someone recognized him from news reports that he was missing.
Long said he believes the Clayton and/or Fulton County district attorneys should open a criminal investigation into Riverwoods’ handling of Mario Scott.
“I prayed the night before that he be found and he be safe,” said Monique Norris, who found Scott. “I didn’t know that God was going to use me.”
She told Winne that God led her to the downtown Atlanta corner where she rescued Scott.
“I just said, ‘Lord, thank you Jesus.’ Because I had just prayed and said, ‘Lord just guide me in the right direction to find him,” Norris said. “I just got him and called Gary Long and put him in my car.”
The sheriff said the shelter that Mario Scott was dropped off at did nothing wrong.
Riverwoods did not immediately respond to messages on Wednesday from Channel 2 Action News or The Associated Press seeking comment about the lawsuit.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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