TAMPA, FL. – Tampa Bay’s 10 News investigation, “Kids in foster care 3 times more likely to get dangerous drugs”, ignited a fired-up, “CYA“ response from Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) earlier this week.
The facts presented by news investigator Mike Deeson came at a critical time for child advocates across the state. Concerned advocates have a watchful eye on the bill proposed by Florida State Senator Ronda Storms. SB 1808: Provision of Psychotropic Medication to Children in Out-of-home Placements, is working its way through the state legislature and if passed would help protect children in foster care from being placed on harmful psychotropic medications. The bill would place tighter controls on the DCF making it so a compelling state interest must be shown before a child is medicated.
States are required under the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovations Act of 2011 to amend their Title IV-B state plan to identify appropriate use and monitoring of psychotropic medications, as part of the state’s current oversight of prescription medications. (Social Security Act Sections 422 (b)(15)(A)(ii)and (v).
Senator Storms, pleased with the coverage provided by 10 News, stated the investigation was ”On the money!” and will be helpful to get the bill passed.
10 News also received supportive calls and comments from parents, mental health/child advocates and even a DCF caseworker who recognized the validity and importance of this investigation.
The 10 News investigation was not well received by the DCF and the station’s management was sharply criticized by DCF Communications Director Joe Follick. Follick sent an e-mail to 10 News citing what he considered “dubious choices of sources” and requested that “in the future neither (producer) Tony D’Astoli or Mike Deeson work not on stories associated with DCF.”
As an aggressive and experienced investigative journalist, Mike Deeson pledged his continued efforts to leave no stone unturned in seeking answers to why the agency continues to allow harmful psychiatric medications to be given to young children in Florida’s foster care system. Deeson stated: ”We will push to find out why a caseworker lied in order to get a doctor to prescribe the drugs without telling the parents and why the agency is taking a CYA stance instead of addressing a major societal problem in our state.”
The issue of the overuse of psychiatric medications and polypsychopharmacology on children in foster care was the focus of a year-long investigation by ABC News last year. The investigation revealed that according to the Government Accountability Office report, children in foster care are 13 times more likely than others to be prescribed powerful, mind-altering psychiatric medications
At a congressional hearing that took place in December of 2011, 11-year-old Ke’onte Cook testified doctors never told him why he was prescribed 13 different psychotropic drugs during a four-year period while in foster care.
Ke’onte’s powerful message to congress raised national concerns over the failure to protect children in foster care from the overuse of harmful psychiatric medications.
While there are many controversial issues that created divided mental health advocacy agendas, the issue of the overuse of psychiatric medications is one in need of a unified alliance.
In light of the critical issues brought forth through the investigations of 10 News Tampa Bay’s News Leader, and ABC’s year-long investigation, as well as the Government Accountability Office Report, I urge members of mental health advocacy groups and organizations to consider creating a unified alliance to advocate on behalf of children in foster care.
GENERAL BILL by Storms; (CO-INTRODUCERS) Gardiner; Lynn
Provision of Psychotropic Medication to Children in Out-of-home Placements; Requiring that children placed in out-of-home care receive a comprehensive behavioral health assessment; specifying eligibility; prescribing duties for the Department of Children and Family Services; requiring that a guardian ad litem be appointed by the court to represent a child in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services who is prescribed a psychotropic medication; requiring that a court authorize the administration of psychotropic medication to a child who is in shelter care or in foster care and for whom informed consent from the parents or a legal guardian has not been obtained; specifying circumstances under which the department may provide psychotropic medication to a child before court authorization is obtained; requiring that the department inform the court of a child’s medical and behavioral status at each judicial hearing, etc.
Senate Committee References:Children, Families, and Elder Affairs (CF) , Health Regulation (HR) , Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations (BHA) , Budget (BC)
Last Action: 02/14/2012 Now in Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations
Effective Date: July 1, 2012