Former patients of a Fayette County psychiatrist said they weren’t surprised when she, her husband and two of her nurse practitioners were accused by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of an illegal prescription scheme.
Now they’re hoping she never gets to practice medicine again.
Dr. Ginari Price is accused of helping her husband and two nurse practitioners issue about 2,500 prescriptions, including opioids, through her practice at Psycare LLC off Devant Street while she was in jail on charges of DUI and fleeing police, AJC.com previously reported.
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Malika Gonzales said she visited Psycare twice and decided not to go back because of all the red flags she noticed. She went prior to Price’s October 2018 arrest for allegedly hitting two cars while her infant was in her lap. Price has remained in the Fayette County Jail ever since without bond, the sheriff’s office said.
“There was too many people in there. I thought that was really suspicious,” Gonzales said. “And they didn’t seem real organized. They had urine samples everywhere, all on the desk and lined up. It just didn’t seem like how a doctor’s office should be.”
She met with Price, whose desk she said was littered with paperwork and medical documents. Price seemed nice but became overly eager to prescribe medication, Gonzales said.
“She was so anxious to give me medicine,” Gonzales said. “I just didn’t get a good feeling in my stomach — something was wrong.”
‘I almost had to bury my son’
Lynett Chester had been taking her severely autistic 10-year-old son Desmond to Price’s office from their home in LaGrange since May 2018. She said Price seemed to be very knowledgeable about her profession, and they felt comfortable under her care at the time.
“I felt good coming out of there (for the first time),” Chester said. “I felt relief that he had a doctor.”
Desmond isn’t able to communicate well, she said, but he is cognizant and will follow her instructions. His medication is vital at controlling his behavior and keeping him calm.
However, when they showed up for their October appointment, they didn’t meet with Price, who was now in jail. Instead, they met with someone calling herself Dr. Okoro, who she now believes was nurse practitioner Ngozi Okoro.
“You know how a nurse wears scrubs ... she was dressed as a doctor,” Chester said. “By all appearances, she was a doctor, and she introduced herself as such.”
Okoro, along with fellow nurse practitioner Marie Pierre and Price’s husband, Michael, were the other three people arrested in connection with the fraudulent prescription scheme, which took place from October to January, the DEA said.
All four face charges that include unauthorized distribution of controlled substances and practicing medicine without a license. Price has a license, but she’s being charged because she’s accused of illegally helping the other three practice medicine.
During the meeting with Okoro, Chester listed a few concerns about her son’s medication dosages, saying he wasn’t listening to her as well as he used to.
She wanted to see if his medicine should be adjusted, but Okoro decided to keep his dosages the same. Chester said she trusted Okoro’s decision because she thought she was a doctor.
On Christmas Day, Chester said that trust nearly killed her son.
She had run an errand, and when she returned, she saw ambulances, fire trucks, police cruisers and her soaking wet husband.
“My husband stopped me and said, ‘He jumped in the lake. Why did he do that?’” Chester said.
Desmond’s body temperature dropped to 94.5 degrees, and he barely had a pulse, she said. She credits her husband, a soldier trained in search and rescue, with saving his life.
Desmond spent a night in a Columbus hospital before being released, and their next appointment at Psycare was only three days later. Chester made a point to bring that incident up first thing during her meeting with Okoro.
But she didn’t expect the response she got.
“She wasn’t dismissive about (what happened), but she seemed like she was trying to get me in and out of the office as quickly as possible,” she said.
Okoro allegedly said Desmond was already taking the highest dosages possible and didn’t adjust them. She recommended they come back in February for behavior modification therapy.
However, when she showed up in February, the office had been permanently closed because the DEA had arrested Okoro, Pierre and Price the week before.
In hindsight, she said the red flags became clearer. Chester noticed the practice full to the brim with patients and said Michael Price was incredibly rude and demeaning to her son when they went in October.
“You don’t speak to psychiatric patients the way he did,” she said. “He looked at me and told me to control my son because he was acting like an animal and that I better contain him.”
Chester was able to get her son’s prescription refilled after the arrests by explaining the situation to emergency room technicians, but she’s unable to see another psychiatrist until March.
“As of right now, his medication is how it is. I’m only sleeping four hours a night tops because I’m terrified he will get up and wander,” Chester said. “I’ve installed an alarm system. I’ve never had to go to this degree, and it’s because his medication wasn’t regulated ... I almost had to bury my son. I don’t want them to ever practice medicine again.”
‘The darkness and bad thoughts are coming’
Jessica and Brian Warnecke never met Price. They started going to Psycare in November, and they said the person they met introduced herself as Dr. Price, and she only recently learned that person was an impostor. She’s still not positive who she met with.
“Had I known that she had not written those prescriptions, I would never had filled them,” Warnecke said.
She and her husband went to Psycare for nearly three months. She mentioned a similar experience to the other former patients — an overly full waiting room, unattended urine samples scattered about and disorganized medical papers.
However, Warnecke said she and her husband endured something else: constant appointment cancellations.
“We showed up, and we waited three hours for (our second) appointment ... they took my husband’s copay, and they told us there was no doctor there,” she said. “They said there was a death in the family, and the doctor wasn’t there.”
The next time they went, a man at the desk allegedly told Warnecke the doctor’s husband was in a car wreck. She later found out that the man behind the desk was actually Price’s husband, Michael. The next time they went, she was told there was a water main break at Price’s house she had to attend to.
Warnecke said it would take several calls and visits to get her prescriptions filled. At the end of January, she ran out of the antidepressants, mood stabilizers and anxiety medications she was prescribed.
After going without her medications for more than a week, she showed up at Psycare to find its doors permanently closed in the wake of the arrests.
She said she’s been off her medication for nearly three weeks, meaning she’s been going through withdrawals.
“I’ve been on (my medications) for the past 13 months. I hadn’t gone without until I went to the Prices,” Warnecke said. “I’m having a detox. I have headaches ... the darkness and bad thoughts are coming, and that’s their fault. I’m fighting hard to stabilize my mental health, and one of my goals was to stay on medication to be there for my husband and kids, and now I have to restart with a new doctor.”
Warnecke said she’s set up plans to meet with another psychiatrist, but after this bad experience, she’s wary of opening herself up again.
“I had a bad experience with a doctor before I went to Price, and then I was lied to here,” she said. “Do I want to go through that again?”
Price’s attorney, Matt Kilgo, told Channel 2 Action News that she maintains her innocence. Her husband and both nurse practitioners also deny any wrongdoing.
Kilgo said Price hopes to keep her medical license once the investigation concludes.
“We hope so,” he said. “We believe that we can.”
Warnecke is hoping for the exact opposite to happen.
“I hope she never practices again in her life,” she said. “You’re supposed to take an oath when you get your medical license, and she does not follow that oath.”