Citizens Commission on Human Rights Launches Petition to Prevent Psychotropic Drugging of California’s Foster Care Youth

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Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), the leading mental health watchdog, has launched a new petition calling on lawmakers to institute policies that provide rights to California’s Foster Care children regarding psychiatric drugs.

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I have seen children become ill and sobbing and frightened of their bodies' reactions to these drugs. — Sonya Muhammad, retired counselor with the Los Angeles County Office of Education/Foster Youth Services

Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), the leading mental health watchdog, announced that it has launched a petition calling for California State legislators and policymakers to enact protections that would provide foster children and youths certain rights relating to being prescribed psychotropic drugs—especially the right to object to taking such drugs.

In its latest article, CCHR shows that the enormity of the drugging was first revealed in a San Jose Mercury News series last year titled, Drugging Our Kids, documenting the massive psychiatric drug use within the state’s foster care system.[1]

CCHR interviewed Sonya Muhammad, a retired counselor with the Los Angeles County Office of Education/Foster Youth Services, who knows firsthand the effects of psychotropic drugs within California’s foster care system. According to Muhammad, “I have seen children become ill and sobbing and frightened of their bodies’ reactions to these drugs.”

The following data that the San Jose Mercury News uncovered, and which CCHR highlights in its petition, supports the call for much-needed reforms:

  • Nearly 25% of adolescents in California’s foster care system are prescribed psychotropic drugs—sometimes two to four or more drugs at a time—and 3 1/2 times the rate for all adolescents nationwide.[1]
  • In 2012-2013, 57% of foster children taking psychotropic drugs were prescribed antipsychotics, which can cause diabetes, persistent tics, breast growth in male children and brain shrinkage.[1]
  • Thirty percent of foster children taking psychotropic drugs were prescribed antidepressants that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has assigned a “Black Box Warning” for suicide in children and adolescents. Antidepressants also can cause agitation, hostility, hallucinations, akathisia (severe restlessness), impulsivity, mania, self-harm and withdrawal effects.[2]
  • Foster children, aged 5 or younger are prescribed psychotropic drugs.[1]
  • California spends more on psychiatric drugs for foster children than on any other kind of medication—more than $226 million in the last decade by Medi-Cal.[1]
  • Psychiatrists and doctors with financial ties to pharmaceutical companies prescribe foster children psychotropic drugs. On average, the higher prescribers collected almost four times—or about $10,000 more—in pharmaceutical funding than the lower prescribers in 2013.[2]

Muhammad points out that, “So many of these children are desperately afraid, frequently separated from their siblings, unable to understand why they have been taken away from their families, and not knowing if they will ever see their families again. These children… eat and sleep in a strange environment with other children whose stories may or may not be worse than their own. One can understand why a child may not be a happy camper and immediately prepared to comply with all that is being asked of them.”

CCHR says the data clearly show that rather than consider the terrifying and emotionally difficult circumstances of the child, psychiatric drugs are prescribed as the remedy to treat behavior. CCHR does not believe this is an issue of “over-medicating” but, rather, no child should be prescribed such drugs with serious side effects in order to change or curb their behavior.

As such, CCHR’s Petition calls on California lawmakers to institute policies that provide rights to children, including the right to object to psychotropic drugs, to be protected from multiple psychiatric drugs at the same time, and the right to receive a complete physical examination and to exhaust all alternatives before a Psychotropic Medication Application can be made to the courts to approve such drug use. Sign the petition here.

Read the full article here.

About Citizens Commission on Human Rights: CCHR is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious mental health watchdog. Its mission is to eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections. CCHR has helped to enact more than 150 laws protecting individuals from abusive or coercive mental health practices.

References:

[1] Karen de Sa, "Drugging Our Kids," San Jose Mercury News, Aug. 24, 2014, webspecial.mercurynews.com/druggedkids/?page=pt1.
[2] “Strengthen Caregiver Training,” National Center for Youth Law Psych Drug Action Campaign, 2014.
[3] Karen de Sa, "The Rx Alliance That Drugs Our Kids," San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 23, 2014, webspecial.mercurynews.com/druggedkids/?page=pt3.

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