Assembly Bill 1067 will work towards necessary improvements, “which include making sure our foster children have a say about what medication they are given.” — Assemblyman Mike Gipson (64th District)
By Kelly Patricia O’Meara
March 20, 2015
In light of a San Jose Mercury News investigation “Drugging Our Kids” exposing the massive psychotropic drugging of children under California’s foster care system, which found nearly 25% of adolescents in California’s foster care system are prescribed mind-altering psychotropic drugs, lawmakers are now understanding the urgency of legislation to curb this abusive practice.
In California, Assemblyman Mike Gipson (64th District) has submitted language, amending existing legislation (AB 1067), providing for specific protections from psychiatric/medication abuse of children under state care. Supporting groups, such as the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) say it is the first legislation to serve foster children rather than psychiatric pharmaceuticals. The California branch of the NAACP has written to state legislators in support of the bill, saying it would “ensure that foster children in California are afforded the same rights to refuse psychotropic medication which are given youths confined in a state juvenile facility.”
According to Gipson, Assembly Bill 1067 will work towards necessary improvements, “which include making sure our foster children have a say about what medication they are given.”
Assemblyman Gipson’s legislation would be an important step in correcting the wholly inadequate protections within the system. Specifically, Assemblyman Gipson’s legislation addresses informed consent issues and rights for minors and non-minors in foster care, including:
- To be informed of the risks and benefits of psychotropic medication.
- To appear before the judge determining if psychotropic medication should be administered, with an advocate of his or her choice, and state that he or she objects to any recommendation to prescribe psychotropic medication.
- The availability to refuse the administration of psychotropic drugs.
- To have a prescribing doctor disclose any financial ties he or she may have to pharmaceutical companies.
The latter is in response to the increasing pharmaceutical influence on prescribing physicians. It was revealed by Mercury News that between 2010-2013 drug makers spent more than $14 million marketing to California doctors treating foster care children and those doctors with high prescription rates typically received the most funding. Gipson’s legislation would force physicians prescribing to foster children to disclose all pharmaceutical funds received, potentially disbarring these doctors from treating foster care children.
A good example of this much needed physician oversight involves the prescribing of the antipsychotic, Risperdal, which not only is being prescribed in California at alarming rates but is the subject of some 700 product liability lawsuits in California alone, many involving children who were allegedly harmed by the drug.
Many of the claims surrounding Risperdal involve gynecomastia allegations—a condition that causes young males to grow female breasts. In February, a Philadelphia jury awarded Austin Pledger $2.5 million in damages because he “was not adequately warned” that he would grow size 46DD breasts as a side effect of using the antipsychotic. Pledger, who has autism, was 8 years old when he first was prescribed Risperdal. The drug label falsely reported that the risk of gynecomastia was low. To this day, Pledger has female-like breasts that can only be removed through a mastectomy.
Between 1996-2001, the Medi-Cal Drug Use Review Board found Risperdal represented its second highest fee-for-service expenditures among a list of more than 1,700 drugs.
It is drugs like Risperdal being prescribed to foster children that make this legislation all the more important. National President of CCHR, Bruce Wiseman, applauds Assemblyman Gipson’s legislative efforts. Wiseman stated, “Psychotropic drugs cause harm and no foster child should be forced to take them.”
“The courts,” explained Wiseman, “are beginning to understand the harmful effects of these drugs and award children millions of dollars because of the irreversible damage caused by antipsychotics. Based on publically available data, child drugging is a nationwide epidemic. We need legislation like that being considered in California to give foster kids the right to object to and refuse these drugs in every state.”
Attorney Allison Folmar is intimately aware of the devastation caused by the use of antipsychotics on children. Folmar represented Detroit mother, Maryanne Godboldo in her fight against state child protective services, not to drug her then 13-year old daughter with Risperdal.
According to Folmar, “Foster children are prescribed psychotropic drugs at rates nearly five times higher than non-foster children. These drugs can cause life-threatening diabetes, violent and suicidal behavior and even brain shrinkage. That is being done to children who already are traumatized…. We need to turn such turmoil into triumph by changing the laws—state-by-state—until every child is protected.”
In order to do the right thing, to legitimately uphold the mission of the California Department of Social Services—”to serve, aid, and protect needy and vulnerable children…”—support of Assemblyman Gipson’s legislation is a hopeful first step in ebbing the tide of dangerous psychiatric prescribing.
Sign CCHR’s Petition to Prevent the Dangerous Psychotropic Drugging of California’s Foster Care Youth here.
Kelly Patricia O’Meara is an award-winning former investigative reporter for the Washington Times’ Insight Magazine, penning dozens of articles exposing the fraud of psychiatric diagnosis and the dangers of the psychiatric drugs—including her ground-breaking 1999 cover story, “Guns & Doses,” exposing the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of senseless violence. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed book, Psyched Out: How Psychiatry Sells Mental Illness and Pushes Pills that Kill. Prior to working as an investigative journalist, O’Meara spent sixteen years on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer to four Members of Congress. She holds a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Maryland.