Lawsuit Claims Missouri Officials Overused Psychotropic Drugs on Foster Children

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey gave preliminary approval to a settlement agreement in a case which claims Missouri officials overused psychotropic drugs on foster children. Missouri officials and advocates have come to an agreement on overhauling the way these drugs are given to children.

The agreement, which has received preliminary approval, would settle a federal class action lawsuit filed on behalf of five children between the ages of two and 14. The lawsuit claimed that the drugs were overused and exposed the foster children to “unreasonable risk of serious physical and psychological harm.”

According to the suit, antipsychotics were used to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder. Records were not kept of the treatments, which meant that some children were prescribed multiple psychotropic drugs at the same time. These drugs come with severe risks, such as suicidal thoughts, irreversible movement disorders, psychosis, seizures, aggression, weight gain and organ damage.

There are more than 13,000 children in Missouri’s foster care system. A past state estimate showed that approximately 30% of foster children are on the drugs.

Under the settlement, children would receive a mental health assessment before being prescribed a psychotropic drug. They would also have a “monitoring appointment” every three months. Additionally, the Children’s Division would have to obtain “informed consent” from each child’s case manager after consulting with parents or those authorized to make decisions.

A child psychiatrist will review the use of some of the drugs, and state officials will create a statewide medical records system. Staff will also undergo mandatory training on the appropriate use of the drug as well as the potential side effects in children. Finally, a Psychotropic Medication Advisory Committee will be formed.

A deadline has been set for October 23 for objections or comments. A final approval hearing is slated for November 20 in Kansas City.