Florida Senators PUSH to Curb Medicating Foster Kids (CBS-4)
Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17iqUsACRZM Florida Senators criticize child drugging
Bill Looks to Curb Medicating State Foster Kids
Bill Is Named For 7-Year-Old Gabriel Myers
By Lisa Cilli
Apr 13, 2010
TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) ― Florida lawmakers are scheduled to discuss a measure Tuesday designed to curb the prescription of mental-health drugs to children in state care. Senate Bill 2718, also known as the Gabriel Myers Bill, would allow officials to more closely monitor the powerful psychiatric drugs dispensed to Florida foster care children.
The proposal is largely based on the findings of a task force formed after Gabriel locked himself in a bathroom and hung himself with a shower cord last April in his Margate foster home. Gabriel was on Seroquel, used to treat bipolar disorder, and other psychiatric drugs linked by federal regulators to potentially dangerous side effects, including suicide, but the risks may not have been adequately communicated to his foster parents. The drugs are not approved for use by young children. But doctors often prescribe them ‘off-label,’ for purposes for which the drugs have not been approved.
Sen. Ronda Storms (R)-Brandon, who filed the bill, said prescribed drugs have replaced talk therapy and are over-prescribed to subdue unruly children.
The proposed law would require the state Department of Children and Families to assign volunteer guardians to oversee each child’s mental health care. It prohibits foster children from being the subject of clinical drug trials and raises the age at which children are allowed to take these drugs from 6 to 11 in many cases.
It would also give children some say in the drugs they take because it would require foster children to agree to the use of the psychiatric drugs and would require caseworkers to explain to children, in a manner they can understand, why the drugs are necessary and what risks they carry.
The measure would also require an independent review before psychiatric drugs can be administered to children 10 or younger. The bill also requires children to have a mental health treatment plan that includes counseling for children prescribed such drugs.
The state’s growing use of adult medication on emotionally and mentally troubled children has sparked debate for years. Florida has approximately 19,000 children in state care and of those about 3,200 are in Miami-Dade County, according to DCF spokeswoman Flora Beal.
Gabriel’s death prompted a statewide investigation that found 13 percent, or 2,699, of all foster children are on such drugs, according to a DCF study. That compares with only an estimated 4 percent to 5 percent of children in the general population.
A state appointed panel recently reviewed all cases and released a report that found that the policies requiring parental consent or a second opinion were not uniformly followed. Gabriel Myers was on psychotropic medications without the required consent, the panel concluded.