By Lisa Cilli
April 13, 2010
Florida lawmakers are scheduled to discuss a measure Tuesday designed to curb the prescription of mental-health drugs to children in state care. Senate Bill 2718, also known as the Gabriel Myers Bill, would allow officials to more closely monitor the powerful psychiatric drugs dispensed to Florida foster care children.
The proposal is largely based on the findings of a task force formed after Gabriel locked himself in a bathroom and hung himself with a shower cord last April in his Margate foster home. Gabriel was on Seroquel, used to treat bipolar disorder, and other psychiatric drugs linked by federal regulators to potentially dangerous side effects, including suicide, but the risks may not have been adequately communicated to his foster parents. The drugs are not approved for use by young children. But doctors often prescribe them ‘off-label,’ for purposes for which the drugs have not been approved.
Sen. Ronda Storms (R)-Brandon, who filed the bill, said prescribed drugs have replaced talk therapy and are over-prescribed to subdue unruly children.
The proposed law would require the state Department of Children and Families to assign volunteer guardians to oversee each child’s mental health care. It prohibits foster children from being the subject of clinical drug trials and raises the age at which children are allowed to take these drugs from 6 to 11 in many cases.
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