Are Drugs Being Misused On Foster Kids?
CONROE, Texas, Oct. 18, 2006
(CBS) Colby Holcomb's mom concedes that the 8-year-old, who's been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, can be a handful at home. But does such behavior merit the treatment Colby received in foster care?
Andrea Holcomb lost custody of her son when he was 7, after her ex-husband made allegations of sexual abuse, CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts reports. These allegations later proved false — but in the meantime, Colby was placed in the Texas foster care system. For 18 months, he was in at least five foster homes. It's a time that still haunts Colby and his family.
Andrea says Colby was on at least 20 different drugs when he was in foster care. Yet, she says she has "no idea" why and says it was never explained to her.
While in foster care, Colby was also diagnosed as bipolar. According to his medical records, he was taking as many as four medications at the same time that gave him seizures.
"I woke up at the hospital with something stuck in my arm," Colby says.
He is not alone.
"I found babies, 2-year olds, 3-year olds being given mind-altering drugs," says Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Texas' state comptroller.
Strayhorn conducted her own two-year investigation into allegations that foster kids in Texas are overmedicated.
"Children in foster care in Texas are dying. Children in foster care are being drugged," Strayhorn says.
There are similar allegations being made in California, Ohio and Florida.
"In Florida, for example, foster kids younger than 5 years old were treated with psychiatric medications at a rate nearly four times higher than the general population of children receiving Medicaid.
Gwen Olsen, a former pharmaceuticals representative who quit her job and wrote the book, "Confessions Of A Prescription Drug Pusher," knows firsthand about the impact of anti-psychotic drugs on children.
"They clamp down on the central nervous system. In effect, they reduce your mobility and that sort of thing, so they are sort of like a chemical straitjacket," she says.
Psychiatrist Christopher Correll is leading a nationwide study on the impact of anti-psychotic drugs have on all children.
"It is a serious step to use an anti-psychotic, there’s no doubt about it. But I think it is also very important to realize that these medications are used under very serious circumstances to actually help patients who have serious symptoms," Correll says.
But if the foster care system is designed to protect children who've been harmed, why would they engage in this if in anyway it was harmful to children?
"To me, the true travesty of the situation is that we take children who just got a bum rap in life to begin with and they get into the system and are further abused chemically," Olsen says.
Colby Holcomb is home and feeling better. He is no longer taking any medications — but his mother worries how many Colbys might still be in the system.
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