I-Team: DCF Probes Drugs Prescribed To Foster Kids
MARGATE (CBS4) ― State officials are looking very closely into the alleged suicide of a seven-year-old boy in foster care.
Seven-year-old Gabriel Myers may have been tormented by demons that came from a prescription drug bottle; police say the boy hanged himself from the extendable shower head in his foster parents’ home.
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald has reported Myers had been taking powerful, psychotropic medications. Some of the drugs are not approved for use in children by the Food & Drug Administration. Three of the drugs come with strong warnings that they can increase the risk of suicide in children.
The Department of Children and Families chief apparently has found it troubling; he’s ordered an internal review of what drugs Florida foster care children are taking.
While Gabriel had been given pills meant to treat mental illness, there is no indication he was psychotic.
“Apparently, he was a normal little boy who occasionally had tantrums and became difficult when he didn’t get his way, but he was not diagnosed with schizophrenia or any other major mental illness,” Herald reporter Carol Marbin Miller said.
Nineteen year-old Miguel Gould was watching the foster child the day he hanged himself. “He was just sick,” Gould told CBS4’s Gary Nelson. “He had pills he had to take to get better. He would have to take like two or three pills per day.”
In recent weeks, Gabriel was prescribed the drug Symbyax, which comes with the strongest warning the FDA issues regarding potential for suicide in children. Gould said the boy’s behavior worsened after he began taking the latest drug. “It got worse. His behavior was just out of control. I couldn’t control him, my parents couldn’t control him.”
Gould told CBS4 News the boy pitched a fit the day he died, angry about a lunch of soup and crackers he had been given. Gould said Gabriel had to eat something with the medication he was taking because it “could be rough on his stomach.”
Dr. David Lustig, a child psychologist and director of the Koala Learning Center in Pembroke Pines, said some children may need to be treated with psychotropic drugs, but because of possible serious side effects they have to be watched closely, especially when starting on a new medication. “Someone has to be monitoring the child to make sure the medicine is doing what it’s supposed to do and there are not adverse reactions,” Lustig said. “In a foster setting, there may not have been anyone to do that adequately.”
Miller, the Herald reporter, previously authored an investigative series that revealed as many as one in four foster children in Florida was being given psychotropic drugs. “They didn’t suffer from psychosis,” Miller said. “They were just kids whose foster parents found it difficult to manage.”
After the Herald’s reports, the Florida legislature passed a measure intended to limit the practice, but it has met only limited success. Doctors are permitted to prescribe the powerful drugs “off label,” despite the FDA’s lack of approval for their use in children.