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Archive for the ‘Psychotropic’ Category

Some Doctors on Payroll Prescribing Psychotropic ‘Chemical Restraints’ to Kids in Florida Juvenile Justice

May 22nd, 2011   No Comments   Psychotropic

Gabriel Myers, 7, died of suicide. Dennis Maltez, 12, died of serotonin syndrome. Both were on psychotropic medications later found to be excessive or inappropriate for their unique cases. Guardians, advocates and child welfare and foster care attorneys wonder: Could history be repeating itself?

For children in Florida’s juvenile jails, heavy doses of powerful antipsychotic medications seem to be the norm — especially when these “big guns” of psychiatry, which can cause suicidal thoughts and other dangerous side effects, are dispensed by doctors reportedly being speaking and other fees by pharmaceutical companies.

According to a Palm Beach Post investigative report, these drugs “routinely were doled out for reasons that never were approved by federal regulators.” In response to the report, the paper noted that the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has “ordered a sweeping review of the department’s use of antipsychotic medications.”

“In some cases, the drugs are prescribed by contract doctors who have taken huge speaker fees and other gifts from makers of antipsychotic pills, companies that reap staggering profits selling medications,” the paper reported.

Regarding the level of use, Broward County Public Defender Howard Fink­elstein, whose office represents children in juvenile court, told the Post, “This is a very important issue. If kids are being given these drugs without proper diagnosis, and it is being used as a ‘chemical restraint,’ I would characterize it as a crime. A battery – a battery of the brain each and every time it is given.”

Read the entire story here.

State Reviews, Revises Findings in Gabriel Myers Foster Care Suicide

The investigations, questions, hearings and discussions lasted more than a year following the apparent suicide in a Florida foster home of Gabriel Myers, a 7-year-old boy on the care of Florida Department of Children and Families — and under the influence of a cocktail of psychotropic medications.

Gabriel Myers (image from Florida DCF)But it wasn’t to be that easy. Florida child welfare administrators, who closed their case in 2010 after finding that none of Gabriel’s caregivers had abused or neglected him.

The agency soon reopened the case, backtracked, and according to reports in the Miami Herald, “verified allegations that Gabriel’s foster parents and their then-19-year-old son, who was baby-sitting that day, were responsible for Gabriel’s death — one of the most controversial in agency history.”

Discussions leading to the new outcome centered on a series of difficult questions that confronted the child welfare agency as it was seeking to redefine itself and promote a greater sense of family among foster children. Read the entire story here.

Florida Suspends Doctor Who Prescribed Psychotropic Meds, But Questions Linger

Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration suspended the license of the doctor who prescribed a combination of three psychiatric drugs to 12 year old autistic child Dennis Maltez when he died of serotonin syndrome.

The Miami Herald wrote about the case in the article, “Florida suspends Miami psychiatrist in boy’s overdose death.” The paper noted that “red flags were overlooked in the 12-year-old’s prescription drug death, and how a second report blamed the system in the tragic case of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers’ suicide.”

State regulators wrote that Kaplan committed medical malpractice, and that he posed “an immediate, serious danger to the health, safely, or welfare of the public.”

The real question that has yet to be answered by the state of Florida is how many other physicians in the state of Florida who prescribe dangerous combinations of psychotropic medications to disabled persons and foster children which are paid for by the state’s Medicaid program will be allowed to ignore the letters and visits from the AHCA children’s pharmacy management program that red-flag these combinations of medications as potentially dangerous? How many more children like Denis Maltez and Gabriel Myers need to die before the state will do something?

Medicaid Cuts Miami Psychiatrist Who Prescribed Psychotropic Drugs to Autistic Boy

The closely watched story of Denis Maltez, the 12-year-old Autistic boy who the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner said died of “serotonin syndrome” after being prescribed several psychotropic drugs, took a new turn this week as the prescribing psychiatrist was dropped from Medicaid’s rolls as a medical provider serving the state’s insurance program for disabled and needy children.

More importantly, the Agency for Health Care Administration needs to monitor all physicians who blatantly ignore their “red flag” warning letters, said Howard Talenfeld, attorney for the boy’s mother, Martha Quesada.

“Unfortunately, Florida has no procedure to protect the patients of physicians who write behavioral healthcare prescriptions that exceed thresholds and who ignore the letters from the University of South Florida Medicaid Drug Therapy Program,” Talenfeld told the Miami Herald.

“Nor does the state tell the parents or guardians of mentally disabled persons or foster children that these drugs prescriptions may be dangerous or monitor whether or not the physicians obtained informed consent from them.”

Read the entire Miami Herald story here.

Miami Herald Story: Red Flags Overlooked in Prescription Drug Death of 12-Year-Old Denis Maltez

A Miami Herald story this weekend – Red Flags Overlooked in Prescription Drug Death of 12-Year-Old – highlights the troubling and allegedly deadly use of psychotropic, prescription drugs on young patients in group homes. And it raises troubling questions.

As the Herald reporter wrote, “The death of 12-year-old Denis Maltez raises troubling questions about the state’s safety net for disabled kids. The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office attributed the death to a life-threatening side effect of over-medication.”

Attorney Howard Talenfeld urged healthcare and disability administrators in a letter to better protect disabled children, “who are powerless to protect themselves from being unnecessarily drugged for the convenience of staff. . . . Without proper oversight and action by your respective state agencies, these individuals will continue to be in harm’s way.”

Among the questions the Herald raised in Denis’ case: (more…)

Florida’s Adoption Program Earns National Respect, Awarded $10 Million

September 18th, 2009   No Comments   Funding, Psychotropic

We at Florida Child Advocate.com congratulate Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon and former Secretary Robert Butterworth for initiating an effort that recognizes that every child, regardless of age or disability, is adoptable. This is a great start, but we have a long way to go.

We’re not alone in recognizing this effort. The Miami Herald reports that Florida leads the nation in finding permanent homes for abused and neglected children.

Washington has recognized the work of what has become a model program, too. Reporter Carol Marbin Miller writes that Florida child-welfare administrators have received nearly $10 million in federal aid for Florida’s adoption program.

“For the second year in a row, the Department of Children & Families has led the nation — by a wide margin — in the number of children successfully adopted from foster care,” Miller writes. “For their efforts, DCF will receive a hefty bonus that can be used to boost next year’s adoption program.” Read More…

Florida Governor, Legislature Must Curtail Use of ‘Chemical Restraints’ on Foster Children

“It seems to be a prerequisite for foster children to be on medication.”

These words were spoken by the adoptive father of two 12-year Florida girls. And the reality he spoke of just shouldn’t be the case.

As Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was barnstorming the state discussing Florida’s successes in fostering adoptions, Mirko Ceska was telling the governor about the continued prevalence of psychotropic drugs in the lives of foster kids and others in the state’s care. Read the Miami Herald article here.

Powerful psychotropic should not be used as “chemical restraints” for minor foster children. But such use is widespread instead of behavioral approaches designed to address the real losses in their lives. (more…)

Florida Today: Sanction Doctors, Child Workers Who Ignore Rules in Prescribing Psychiatric Drugs

Florida Today writes about the Florida Department of Children and Families study of compliance by physicians and case workers with regard to legal rules related to prescribing mental health drugs to foster care kids. The publication commented that they report was “disturbing and demands action.”

The conclusions — of both the study and Florida Today’s editors — are correct: The practice is too widespread, with too little oversight.

Yet this should be just a starting point. If it were to conduct a similar study, I believe the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities ( APD ) would arrive at similar conclusions, namely that group home operators often are administering these medications without the proper power of consent from families or guardians, and physicians aren’t obtaining appropriate histories and conducting appropriate physical or behavioral examinations.

The improper use of psychotropic medications has hit near epidemic proportions in the Florida foster care and group home setting. The public first realized this with the April suicide of Gabriel Myers, 7, and weeks later, with a wrongful death lawsuit filed following the overdose of Denis Martez, 12.

Florida Today’s editorial helps raise public awareness of this important issue. We all should keep awareness high so we can remedy this serious situation. Read the full editorial here.

Sun-Sentinel: Child’s Death Exposes a Big Problem in Foster-Care Reform

THE ISSUE: Child’s death exposes a big problem in foster-care reform.

Sun Sentinel Editorial Board

It wasn’t that long ago when the Florida Department of Children & Families was seen as a hapless bureaucracy. Whether it was their seeking to incarcerate an 8-year-old to ensure he received proper care, or simply losing youngsters supposedly under its care, it didn’t take much for DCF to make a mockery of its role in child welfare.

The good news is that DCF is no longer that troubled agency. Unfortunately, many of those problems that once bedeviled DCF now belong to those local nonprofits and government agencies that are under contract with the state to provide foster care and other child protective services. Thank community-based care for that. (more…)

Florida Department of Children and Families’ Role ‘Should’ be to Protect Foster Kids

By Brian J. Cabrey

As published as a letter to the editor in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

The April 16 suicide death of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers, a foster child in the custody and care of the Florida Department of Children and Families, shocks the conscience. Gabriel apparently hung himself with the shower hose in the bathroom of his foster home in Margate.

The victim of sexual abuse, as well as other abuse and neglect that resulted in him being removed from his family and placed in foster care, Gabriel had been prescribed a variety of mind-altering psychotropic medications while in foster care to deal with the myriad behavioral problems he was experiencing, no doubt largely the result of the abuse he had suffered. Reports are that he was on three or four different drugs, or combinations thereof, at the time of his death.

What is almost as shocking to the conscience as a 7-year-old wanting to, knowing how to and actually committing suicide, is that a 7-year-old would be on not just one, but multiple psychotropic medications. Most such drugs have never been tested for pediatric use, and have not been FDA-approved for such use. Their prescription and use with kids is generally “off label,” meaning there are no approved instructions or guidelines for such use. (more…)

Attorneys: Florida Agency for Persons With Disabilities Must Curtail Psychotropic Use in APD Residential Facilities

June 4th, 2009   No Comments   Foster Care, Psychotropic

Psychotropic medications used without appropriate consent of parents and guardians has hit near epidemic proportions in the Florida foster care and group home setting. The public first realized this with the suicide of Gabriel Myers, 7, and weeks later, with a wrongful death lawsuit filed following the overdose of Denis Martez, 12.

The situation needs improved oversight — and the practice must stop.

In the following letter to Jim DeBeaugrine, Director of the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities, attorneys Howard Talenfeld and Maria Elena Abate, partners with the Fort Lauderdale law firm Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky & Abate, P.A., call for Mr. DeBeaugrine to survey all licensed group homes working with his Agency as a first step in curtailing such use.

See the original letter here.

June 4, 2009
Jim DeBeaugrine, Director
Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities
Tallahassee, FL  32399

Re:  Death of Dennis Maltez–Investigation of Psychotropic Drug Use in Group Homes

Dear Director DeBeaugrine,

As attorneys for the estate of Denis Maltez, and long-time advocates for the rights of society’s most vulnerable citizens, we are very concerned about the role psychotropic drugs played in his death from serotonin syndrome. I know that you are quite familiar with this case as your agency took emergency action and suspended the license of Rainbow Ranches, in part because of the inappropriate use of such drugs. (more…)

Florida Foster Children Get Too Many Psychotropic Drugs With Too Little Oversight from State DCF

June 1st, 2009   No Comments   Foster Care, Psychotropic

Gabriel Myers (image from Florida DCF)The Florida Department of Children and Families Work Group issued its report on the role psychotropic medications played in the April suicide of Gabriel Myers – and the results were stark and unacceptable.

In the report issued this week, the DCF reported that 2,669 of Florida’s 20,235 foster children under the age of 17 were given one or more psychotropic drugs – with one in six, or about 16 percent, lacking required permissions. Some 73 kids 5 or younger are on the drugs.

Most shocking: Florida passed a law in 2005 requiring parental consent or a judge’s approval before administering psychotropic drugs.

Why is this important? These powerful psychological and mood-altering medications are used to control children’s behavior often in lieu of appropriate behavioral interventions. Many are often prescribed even though there is no FDA approval and there are significant side effects, including depression that could lead to suicide. Thus, they must be administered in appropriate situations where behavioral interventions have been exhausted, with a court order and under the close supervision of prescribing physicians well versed with the individual child’s health and care regimen. (more…)