Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Foster Kids Slower to Receive Medications; the New Rules Come after a 7-Year-Old Boy Hanged Himself in April

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Foster Kids Slower to Receive Medications; the New Rules Come after a 7-Year-Old Boy Hanged Himself in April

Article excerpt

Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

TALLAHASSEE - New practices after the death of a 7-year-old foster child who took psychiatric medications have slowed the flow of the drugs to children in state care, local health-care providers say. Whether those changes are for the better is a contentious question.

The renewed attention to so-called psychotropic drugs comes in the wake of the hanging death of Gabriel Myers of Fort Lauderdale, whose apparent suicide in April led to an ongoing examination by the Department of Children & Families. His death sparked promises by lawmakers to strengthen laws aimed at preventing the overuse of the medications by foster children.

It is the latest chapter in an international battle over how and whether the drugs should be used, with medical professionals stressing they are largely safe for older patients but advocacy groups pointing to suicides, particularly among children, as a reason use of the medications should be curtailed. Those fears have prompted the FDA to put a "black box" warning on the drugs.

The task force investigating Myers' death found hundreds of children were on psychiatric medication without a paper trail showing consent. DCF has in recent months put a renewed emphasis on ensuring that it has the required parental consent or court order for children taking the drugs.

"It has slowed down in some cases the child physically taking the medicine," said Denise Marzullo, clinical director for Northwest Behavioral Health Services in Jacksonville.

Marzullo said more paperwork has been required recently, perhaps in the last year or so, but that some DCF caseworkers are also ready with the required consent as soon as the child is prescribed the medication, cutting back on delays in those cases. And she said the often tumultuous life of children in state care doesn't mean that taking time to get the drugs correct, and make sure other drugs might not cause a negative reaction, is a bad thing. …

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