Incarcerated Louisiana Youth Overmedicated into Submission, Investigation Finds

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Strong antipsychotic medications are being prescribed to incarcerated juveniles across Louisiana despite lacking diagnoses for the conditions they were designed to treat, according to an investigative report by New Orlean’s The Lens.

The medications are meant to help with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. After examining their records, The Lens found 22 percent of medications prescribed in eight Louisiana facilities were designed to treat bipolar disorder. But, only five percent of diagnoses were of bipolar, the investigative news site found. No diagnoses of schizophrenia were made.

The most common diagnosis (found in 20 percent of incarcerated juveniles) was “conduct disorder. " Symptoms of this disorder include defiant, impulsive behavior, drug use and criminal activity.

“There are some youth who should receive medications who aren’t,” Will Harrell, a federal monitor of juvenile justice systems, told The Lens. “But there’s also kids who are being medically restrained. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with disruptive kids by drugging them, than doing anything else.”

According to August Collins, director of youth advocacy at the Youth Empowerment Project, the drugs are used to numb the inmate into submission, making it difficult to rehabilitate them.

“We need to set stricter guidelines on prescribing this stuff and quit treating diagnosis of a kid as an assembly line,” Collins told The Lens. “We’ve had kids sleeping in classes like they’re stoned out of their minds. It’s difficult to give these kids insight into who they are if they can’t even stay awake.”

7 thoughts on “Incarcerated Louisiana Youth Overmedicated into Submission, Investigation Finds

  1. I appreciate your response but who are you kidding? Your institutions engaged in at least morally despicable behavior, if not criminal behavior. I will let the evidence do the talking. If you want further reading material and or videos/movies please let me know. I can send them to you.

    http://healthland.time.com/2011/05/26/why-children-and-the-elderly-are-so-drugged-up-on-antipsychotics/

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/mind-altering-psych-drugs-year/story?id=15066848#.TuU_Lhwu1Zf

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2069119/Keonte-12-tells-Congress-drugged-4-years-foster-care.html

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/study-shows-foster-children-high-rates-prescription-psychiatric/story?id=15058380#.TuVAlxwu1Zd

  2. OJJ is a state agency, not a for-profit entity. Louisiana has no for-profit secure facilities for juveniles. Prescription medicines administered to youth in our facilites for any reason are precribed by licensed physicians. Our youth do not receive unnecessary drugs and are not drugged into tractabilty. Period. End of story.

  3. Have i personally visited OJJ’s facilities? No. But what i do know is that drugging our most vulnerable citizens has become the MO of this country. From our elderly in nursing homes, to our returning war veterans, to kids in foster care. These segments of the population have been subjected to criminal drugging so is it that far of a leap to think that juveniles would be given false labels and drugged, come on. This is all public knowledge and requires very little inquiry to come to these conclusions. Furthermore, since state budgets are being cut it makes a lot of sense to give these kids brain shrinking drugs (and yes, they do shrink your brain) to maintain order. This, on top of the fact that some of these facilities are ran for profit! Talk about absurd. Just look up the Florida foster care psychiatrists if you want examples from other states. To top it all off psychiatrists are nothing other than big-pharma’s drug dealers. But that is a different story for another day. Anyone who stays up to date on the psychiatry and big pharma knows this. Young and troubled kids are just another market for big-pharma, plain and simple. Your not fooling anyone who has knowledge of the situation.

  4. Of course they are over medicating these kids. Why? Because A.) Psychiatry is big pharma’s drug dealers, B) It makes the kids easier to control and C) since, in the eyes of the state, these kids are criminals, who cares if we give them brain damaging drugs? What it comes down to is that drugging kids is profitable and it makes them docile. These allegations are accurate, this guy is just trying to cover his you know what. If we judge a nation on how it treats its most vulnerable citizens, America needs a lot of work.

    • Mr. Miller: When did you visit any of OJJ’s secure care facilities? When did you observe OJJ youth drugged into docility? Your comments indicate that you know more about our operations than we do.
      (Ms.) Jerel Giarrusso

      • Have i personally visited OJJ’s facilities? No. But what i do know is that drugging our most vulnerable citizens has become the MO of this country. From our elderly in nursing homes, to our returning war veterans, to kids in foster care. These segments of the population have been subjected to criminal drugging so is it that far of a leap to think that juveniles would be given false labels and drugged, come on. This is all public knowledge and requires very little inquiry to come to these conclusions. Furthermore, since state budgets are being cut it makes a lot of sense to give these kids brain shrinking drugs (and yes, they do shrink your brain) to maintain order. This, on top of the fact that some of these facilities are ran for profit! Talk about absurd. Just look up the Florida foster care psychiatrists if you want examples from other states. To top it all off psychiatrists are nothing other than big-pharma’s drug dealers. But that is a different story for another day. Anyone who stays up to date on the psychiatry and big pharma knows this. Young and troubled kids are just another market for big-pharma, plain and simple. Your not fooling anyone who has knowledge of the situation.

  5. Hello –
    We became aware that you posted a story on your website by The Lens, a New Orleans, LA, investigative news organization. Below is the response to that article from the LA Office of Juvenile Justice. Please note that, in our opinion, the flawed conclusions drawn by The Lens reporter do not merit the label of “integrity” in journalism.
    Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like additional information.

    Thank you –
    Jerel M.Giarrusso
    Director of Communications
    Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice
    Tel. 225.287.7898 Cell 225.235.0484
    7919 Independence Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70806
    P. O. Box 66458, Audubon Station, Baton Rouge, LA 70896

    Office of Juvenile Justice
    Mary L. Livers, Ph.D, MSW, Deputy Secretary

    September 2, 2011

    Re: The Lens story: Overmedicating young inmates called chemical restraint

    OJJ would like to address allegations of alleged use of chemical restraints in Louisiana juvenile facilities.
    The Lens writer confuses parish detention centers with state-run facilities.
    • These are very different types of facilities. OJJ has no management or fiscal control over locally operated juvenile detention centers.
    • Of the eight facilities named in the article, only three are state facilities operated by OJJ. These include Bridge City, Jetson and Swanson Centers for Youth. Additionally, Ware Youth Center treats secure care females under contract with OJJ.
    • OJJ does not have access to the local facilities list of medications and resident diagnoses, therefore cannot substantiate the report’s findings as to aggregate data presented.
    OJJ was asked to provide to The Lens a list of mental health diagnoses of youth in our custody, and a separate list of psychotropic drugs ordered by OJJ facilities in 2010.
    • The list of medicines we provided showed those stocked by the in-house pharmacies at our three facilities. The pharmacies were staffed by qualified pharmacists who filled prescriptions ordered by licensed physicians.
    • The two lists contained independent information that cannot be combined or compared to indicate which medications were prescribed to treat a specific diagnosis. The writer did not receive information from OJJ as to the dosage and quantity of medicine administered to treat a specific diagnosis.
    The writer of the article made the erroneous assumption that all medications in stock were actively prescribed to youth.
    • The medications on the list were not necessarily prescribed and administered – but they were in stock in the event they were needed.
    • However, as of September 1, 2010, OJJ contracts with a new medical and mental health care provider at Bridge City and Jetson. On July 1, 2011, the same provider assumed those duties at Swanson Center for Youth. This provider follows a very different procedure for stocking medicines at the facilities. While our previous provider maintained an extensive supply of medicines, managed on-site by a pharmacist at each facility, the new provider obtains regularly required medicines monthly, with a contact pharmacy in each community to supply medicines needed in emergency situations.
    OJJ thus denies the statement in the Lens story that atypical psychotropic drugs were heavily ordered by our facilities.
    • Specifically mentioned are prescriptions used at Swanson Center for Youth, which is the site of OJJ’s Mental Health Treatment Unit (MHTU) that houses and treats secure care youth who are the most acutely and severely mentally ill.
    • If an OJJ secure facility youth is prescribed psychotropic medication, a psychiatrist establishes a schedule for follow-up visits based on the clinical needs of each youth. The schedule can range from daily visits in cases of crisis stabilization, to monthly visits for youth who have evidenced ongoing stability in daily functioning. Most follow-up visits occur more frequently than every 30 days and the efficacy of the psychotropic medication regimen is reassessed at each psychiatry visit.

    Over-medicating and warehousing youth is not acceptable for OJJ.
    • The Psychiatry Program is regularly evaluated by a consulting psychiatrist who comes on site to review patient records, medication utilization, policy and procedure, and talk with psychiatric practitioners.
    • Additionally, standards associated with the American Correctional Association as well as the National Commission on Correctional Health Care are utilized in review and assessment of the Psychiatry Program in place at OJJ-run facilities.
    • OJJ does not treat mentally ill youth solely with medications. We provide various treatment modalities as adjunct therapies and education. The medical professionals who treat our youth also take part in regular staffings to determine the therapy provided.

    OJJ’s mission is to protect the public by providing safe and effective individualized services to youth, who will become productive, law-abiding citizens. To that end, every youth in OJJ care and custody has an individualized treatment plan that provides for an array of services unique to that youth. “One size does not fit all” OJJ youth. A medication prescribed for one youth may be inappropriate for another with a similar diagnosis. OJJ contracts with outstanding service providers to ensure that our youth do indeed receive effective, individualized services. We take our mission seriously and we strive daily to meet the mission on behalf of every young person in our custody.