OUR OPINION: Still subject to over use of psycho-tropic drugs
State Sen. Rhonda Storms, a Valrico Republican, put up a Herculean fight on behalf of Florida’s foster kids this week, but a powerful bloc of doctors and psychiatrists defeated her in the Florida House.
The House leadership could have prevented this travesty. Instead, it caved to Florida’s powerful medical lobby and sacrificed some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.
The battle was over use of psycho-tropic drugs on youth in state care. After the 2009 suicide of 7-year-old foster child Gabriel Myers in Margate, the Department of Children & Families hired former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Deputy Commissioner Jim Sewell to investigate how drugs are used to control unruly foster kids.
Mr. Sewell pulled no punches in his report. Foster parents and doctors often resort to strong anti-depressants to keep children with emotional problems in line. Treatment of their underlying psychological problems take second place to keeping them drugged up.
Gabriel had been prescribed several such drugs before he hung himself, including anti-depressants linked to an increased risk of suicide among children.
The DCF sought better oversight of how doctors prescribe psychiatric drugs to foster children. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Storms, would have required doctors to seek the “assent” of older foster kids before they could be medicated and upheld current law requiring doctors to get consent from a parent or a judge in most cases before using drugs.
That’s reasonable — and, more important, in the child’s best interests. But physicians fought, saying they didn’t want government telling them what to do. Republican state Rep. Paige Kreegel, a Punta Gorda doctor, blocked the bill from even being heard in the House, though it had passed easily in the Senate.
Sen. Storms tried every legislative maneuver available to get around Rep. Kreegel, but the physicians won the day, and Florida’s foster children are worse off for it.
DCF ought to seek another way to control use of these medications until reason prevails in the House.