THE ISSUE: Death raises concern about psychotropic drugs.
Sun Sentinel Editorial Board
Gabriel Myers committed suicide in a Margate foster home, and his death resurrects a problem many thought had been addressed by state law — the misuse of psychotropic medication.
Unfortunately, too many youths in Florida’s foster care system — 2,669 at last count — are still on potentially dangerous, mood-altering medication. Almost one of every six of those youngsters is given these drugs without court order or parental consent.
State lawmakers might be forgiven for thinking that they’ve been there, done that on this controversy. In 2005, the Legislature approved SB 1090, a bill that tightened state procedures to make sure that psychotropic drugs weren’t prescribed to minors without proper oversight. The law stressed physicians’ need to get consent or a court order before dispensing the drugs.
The lawmakers did their job; Myers’ tragedy suggests the child welfare officials who run community based foster care services apparently didn’t do theirs.
At the time of his death, Myers had been prescribed Symbyax and Vyvanse, two mood-altering drugs that had not been approved by either the boy’s parents or a judge. Symbyax carries a “black box” warning that the drug may increase suicidal thoughts or behavior in children. Vyvanse’s warning says the medication carries arisk of aggressive behavior, strange thoughts and mania.
The fact that Myers is the new face for an ongoing problem shows a flaw in the state’s child welfare program, which has undergone its own reforms. Local community-based nonprofits now run foster-care services, but the fact that Myers died tragically under the care of a local bureaucracy instead of a state one is no reason to think the state’s safety net is rock solid.
The investigation continues, and child welfare officials are, again, fending off allegations they use drugs designed for serious mental disorders to subdue behavior. Lawmakers undoubtedly will propose new bills to strengthen laws already on the books.
New legislation is fine. The trick now is to make sure all the rules are being followed.
BOTTOM LINE: Rules must be followed.