Child Drugging in Florida,0,2212606.story

Sun Sentinel
Death raises concern about psychotropic drugs.
Editorial Board
June 8, 2009
In 2005, the Legislature approved SB 1090, a bill that tightened state procedures to make sure that psychotropic drugs weren’t prescribed to minors without proper oversight. The law stressed physicians’ need to get consent or a court order before dispensing the drugs…

The investigation continues, and child welfare officials are, again, fending off allegations they use drugs designed for serious mental disorders to subdue behavior. Lawmakers undoubtedly will propose new bills to strengthen laws already on the books.

New legislation is fine. The trick now is to make sure all the rules are being followed.

BOTTOM LINE: Rules must be followed.

Washington Examiner
Doped up foster child in Florida hangs himself. He was seven.
Local Opinion Editor
June 4, 2009
Sheldon’s subsequent investigation revealed that more than 2,600 foster children in Florida are being doped up – with one in six lacking the legally required consent forms. Children trapped in these state-run “child welfare” programs are being doped up to keep them docile and easy to manage while the adults in charge thumb their noses at the law and cash the checks.

This is beyond disgusting. It’s criminal.

St. Petersburg Times
Foster care failures
A Times Editorial
June 7, 2009
Two disturbing facts about the Florida foster care system have emerged following the suicide of a 7-year-old boy on psychiatric drugs. First is the extraordinary prescription rate for children under the supervision of the Department of Children and Families. Second is the alarming revelation that a 2005 law aimed at tackling that problem has been repeatedly and systemically ignored…

Such changes will only work if Sheldon succeeds in changing a culture that ignored such safeguards. DCF relies heavily on nonprofit local providers to do its work. Those providers need to fully understand what is at stake, as do their employees. Four years after the Legislature thought it had addressed this problem, a 7-year-old’s suicide is a stark reminder that the system is still terribly flawed. How long will it take to get it right?

Palm Beach Post
Kids and drugs. Too much, too little?
by Opinion Staff
June 6, 2009

Frighteningly, 16 percent of the Florida foster kids given such drugs are taking them without permission from a parent or judge. One such child, 7-year-old Gabriel Myers, who was taking a combination antipsychotic and antidepressant, hanged himself in April in his Broward County foster home….doctors have said that such mind-altering drugs, including many common antidepressants, can lead to thoughts of suicide in children and have put special warnings on the medications. #

Sarasota Herald Tribune
Drugs carried warnings
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Symbyax carries a warning that “antidepressants may increase suicidal thoughts or behaviors in some children… especially within the first few months of treatment or when changing the dose.”

Vyvanse is approved for use in children 6 and over, but the manufacturer notes that the drug should not be taken by those in “agitated states.” Aggression and abnormal behaviors are sometimes associated with its use.

These risks are among the reasons why Florida law requires informed parental consent or judicial order before administering psychiatric medications to foster children. Paperwork in Gabriel’s case indicated consent had been given, but that was erroneous, DCF officials say. A statewide review of psychiatrically medicated foster children found consent documentation lacking in 16 percent of such cases — a potentially serious gap in the safety net.

Palm Beach Post
Owning up, cleaning up
June 05, 2009

The review also found that 16 percent of the children in foster care taking these drugs do not have parental consent or a court order. “That is unacceptable,” said Mr. Sheldon. “Gabriel Myers and all of Florida’s children deserve better.”

Those children who have been prescribed psychotropic drugs must get informed parental consent or a court order before resuming the medication… .This report is an important first step in closely examining not only this case, said Mr. Sheldon, “but in helping to assure that this kind of tragedy never happens again.”

DCF must do better
A Times Editorial
May 12, 2009

It has been a common practice for DCF workers and physicians to fail to obtain parental consent when a psychotropic drug is for a nonpsychotherapeutic use, under the mistaken impression that the law didn’t require it…

Sheldon has it right when he says that Gabriel’s death “ought to mean something.” State law needs to be followed when prescribing medication for children in foster care. And particularly when it comes to damaged children, there has to be a recognition that drugs are no substitute for basic human care and attention.

Miami Herald
Answers needed in case of child’s suicide
April 24, 2009
OUR OPINION: Mistakes apparent in death of seven-year-old Gabriel Myers

A good place to begin the examination is with the menu of potent, mind-altering drugs that Gabriel was taking under a doctor’s prescription. The boy was being treated by a Broward psychiatrist who had been red-flagged by a state agency as having ”problematic” prescribing habits, according to a state Medicaid drug-therapy expert. The term applies to doctors with a high volume of prescriptions of mental-health drugs or who prescribe potentially risky drug combinations.

DCF has of history of relying too heavily on psychotropic drugs to manage children in its care. After a series of Miami Herald stories describing the problems, the Florida Legislature passed a law that attempted to control and limit the use of psychotropic drugs on children. The legislation cited a DCF study in 2004 showing that 13 percent of all children in state custody were receiving and least one psychotropic drug. The study also showed that 25 percent of the children living in foster care were being treated with psychotropic drugs, a rate five times higher than in the general population of Medicaid-eligible children.

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