You can't drug kids. Yet again, we find ourselves adding to this list of things that you can’t do to kids that really should have gone without saying. Missouri is being sued over allegations of inappropriately administering psychotropic drugs to foster care children.
To make sure we are on the on the same page, psychotropic drugs are used to treat psychiatric conditions and include antidepressants, antipsychotics, atypical antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, stimulants, barbiturates, and sleep aids. Side effects can include; sleepiness, irritability, muscle tics, impaired speech, and suicidal thoughts.
The federal lawsuit was filed Monday against the State Department of Social Services by two national child advocacy groups and Saint Louis University School of Law Legal Clinics on behalf of 13,000 foster children, both former and current. It is a first class-action lawsuit that specifically focuses only on the psychotropic drugs given to the foster kids.
In the lawsuit, the legal clinic, the National Center for Youth Law and the organization Children’s rights claim the state failed to ensure the kids received the drugs safely and most importantly, only when necessary. The lawsuit says the state lacks proper oversight of the prescriptions for the children. Close to 30 percent of the children in the care of the foster system of Missouri are prescribed some sort of psychotropic medication which is twice the national average.
The suit also calls for a court order for the state to keep better records, develop a stronger informed consent policy, and implement a system to flag the potential over prescribing of psychotropic drugs.
One of the children the lawsuit is filed on behalf of is a 14-year old boy, whom at one point was prescribed as many as seven psychotropic drugs at one time. According to court records, one former foster parent said she received a brown grocery bag full of medications in November of 2015 when she first picked up the boy. She was given no medical background on the boy or any information on how to administer the medications.
She said after giving the boy his medications one night, he told her he was scared to sleep and felt like he had knives in his eyes. She said he also twitched, which she believed to be a side effect of the medication, and he was later prescribed another medication to treat the tics, which is normally prescribed to Parkinson’s patients. He had also been hearing voices telling him to kill himself.
After the teen had become homicidal, she had stopped serving him, but stayed in contact with him. She visited him in April after he moved to a state facility and said that he was “an entirely changed child”
Others who the lawsuit was filed on behalf of include sisters, ages 2 and 3, who were prescribed the antipsychotic Risperdal, which is not FDA-approved for children younger than 5. The lawsuit claims the psychotropic drugs are often prescribed as “chemical straight-jackets” for foster care children with ADHD or conduct disorder despite there being few to no FDA-approved uses for the drugs among children.
The Associated Press Contributed to this Report
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