Foster care drug oversight lacking

Tampa Tribune
By CATHERINE DOLINSKI

TALLAHASSEE – State law requires clear, informed consent from a judge or parent before doctors can prescribe psychotropic drugs for foster children. But no one gave such consent for 7-year-old Gabriel Myers to take a powerful drug known to trigger suicidal thoughts in children.

Myers, of Margate, hanged himself April 16 after taking several psychotropic drugs including Symbyax, an antidepressant that has not been approved for children and can increase suicidal thoughts in those who take it. A work group of child welfare officials and experts meets in Tampa today to continue probing the factors that contributed to Myers’ death.

A recent investigation by the Department of Children & Families has revealed that proper authorization has been missing in many cases where foster children are taking psychotropic drugs. The June 4 report showed that, statewide, consent was lacking for 435 such children, or 14.2 percent.

The issue was nearly as much of a problem locally. The same report showed that Hillsborough Kids Inc., a state-contracted foster care agency, had not obtained proper consent for 45 children taking psychotropic medication, a failure rate of 13.7 percent.

But more recently, the news has improved, as both the state and Hillsborough Kids have vastly improved their compliance rates. According to a July 17 report, proper authorization existed statewide in all but 4.6 percent of cases, or a total of 14. Hillsborough Kids had obtained consent in all but 14 cases, or 4.4 percent.

The 9 a.m. work group meeting is at 9393 N. Florida Ave.

Reporter Catherine Dolinski can be reached at (850) 222-8382.

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