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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:

– How can group homes for the disabled be allowed to communicate with psychiatrists and consent to the administration of dangerous medications instead of parents and guardians on critical medication decisions?

– How can psychiatrists totally ignore “red flag” warnings when their prescriptions exceed established thresholds from Medicaid’s University of South Florida Drug Therapy Program?

– Are existing state regulatory agencies (Department of Children & Families, Agency for Persons With Disabilities, Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Health), adequate in protecting the state’s most vulnerable citizens—the mentally and developmentally disabled?

– Should Florida healthcare administrators oversee doctors — especially those who reject advice from their peers?

“Three agencies all raised concerns and red flags, and each agency was saying this is somebody else’s job to take it a step further,” Department of Children & Families Secretary George Sheldon told the Herald. “I’m not sure what the solution is.”

The solution likely is greater oversight by state regulators and advocates for the state’s most vulnerable, to ensure psychotropic medications are used in compliance with state law, with parental permission — and within established, suitable thresholds based on each child’s case.

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