exposing the dark side of adoption
Register Log in

1 in 4 foster kids on mood medication


1 in 4 foster kids on mood medication

A study questions the state's use of mental health drugs on children.

January 17, 2005

Associated Press

MIAMI - Powerful mood-altering drugs are prescribed to one of every four foster children under the care of Florida's child welfare agency, according to a study that prompted concerns the medication is inappropriate, too costly and simply dangerous.

The analysis, conducted by Florida's Department of Children and Families, showed consultants hired by the state questioned "the appropriateness" of prescribing mental health drugs to 1,273 children, and told 442 doctors they were engaging in "questionable" practices.

"There is evidence that some children ... are prescribed psychotropic medications simply to address behavioral problems," DCF committee staff director Beverly Whiddon said.

The issue has long been a concern for child welfare advocates and state officials. In November 2003, former DCF secretary Jerry Regier told a Senate committee the agency would undertake a study to examine whether psychotropic drugs are properly prescribed to thousands of foster children.

In the fiscal year that ended in June 2002, 5,137 foster children were prescribed psychotropic drugs, including 550 children 5 years old and younger, according to DCF data based solely on Medicaid records, not from HMOs or private insurance.

Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell, D-Tamarac and head of the Senate Children & Families Committee, said he will introduce a bill to be heard in this year's legislative session seeking to curb the practice. Campbell has long been concerned about whether the practice results in addiction among kids to the medications.

"This is a unique population, and I hate to see them used as guinea pigs," said state Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach.

The study also revealed one in 10 foster children is taking at least three psychiatric drugs simultaneously, and the state's cost for mental health drugs has almost tripled since 2001 to a projected $680-million this budget year.

2005 Jan 17