Georgia’s foster children are being over-medicated, often to sedate them or control their behavior rather than treat a medical condition, a new study confirms.
The question is: What should Georgia do about it? One solution being considered by state legislators calls for oversight of medications given to adjust the mood or behavior of thousands of foster children in Georgia. The bill calls for written standards for the dosages and combinations of psychotropic drugs given to those children, as well as an independent clinical review to assess all such medications and related treatments twice a year. But some child psychiatrists, worrying about second-guessing and lengthy delays in treatment, told state lawmakers last week that they object to a provision that would require the state’s pre-authorization for certain medications or unusual doses. They also cautioned about the consequences of language that would require the informed consent of children 14 and older before taking a new psychotropic drug.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal pledged to sign an executive order establishing a permanent Criminal Justice Reform Oversight Council to study the state’s criminal justice system. The move comes on the heels of a report by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform that makes recommendations to lawmakers about methods for reducing the high cost of incarceration for taxpayers. The report by the Special Council also recommends the new Oversight Council address juvenile justice reform. “Council members believe that a full examination of the state’s juvenile justice system should be undertaken to develop recommendations for reform,” the report says. Currently, lawmakers are debating a rewrite of the Georgia Juvenile Code, however it is unclear what role the new Oversight Council might play in the process.
says too many of Georgia’s 7,000 foster children are being over prescribed potent, mood-altering psychotropic drugs. Some are being given more than four different medications daily, many of which have serious side effects and have not been tested and approved as safe for children. HB 23, she says, can help begin to address the complex problems that this dangerous practice imposes on some of Georgia’s most vulnerable young people. She also insists that a major overhaul of the current process could save our financially strapped state lots of money. Here’s what Rep. Oliver, who represents a portion of middle DeKalb County, told JJIE.org’s Chandra Thomas about the “Foster Children’s Psychotropic Medication Monitoring Act” that she has introduced in the House.
A wrenching story of abuse and neglect appears on the op-ed page of Thursday’s AJC. And State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-DeKalb) makes the case for reviewing how much medication is used to control the behavior of children in foster care. Oliver writes about a little boy who endured a crushing family tragedy and was abandoned by his parents while in first grade. Now he’s 13, living in an institution and heavily medicated with psychotropic drugs. His story is one of more than 200 cases detailed in the Cold Case Project, sponsored by the Supreme Court of Georgia’s Committee on Justice for Children.