It is not too often that I can actually say I am proud of an elected Government Official. It is even more rare that I am able to say I am proud of a Democrat in office, much less a Democrat Senator.
Today, I am so proud of Senator Thomas Carper, a Democrat Senator from Delaware. He hears the voice of the children!
Tonight, there was an ABC News Exclusive Report with Diane Sawyer, on a report which will be released this Thursday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report is the findings of a two-year-long investigation of psychiatric medications being prescribed to foster children at an alarming rate.
In the article from ABC News:
The GAO’s report, based on a two-year-long investigation, looked at five states — Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and Texas. Thousands of foster children were being prescribed psychiatric medications at doses higher than the maximum levels approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in these five states alone. And hundreds of foster children received five or more psychiatric drugs at the same time despite absolutely no evidence supporting the simultaneous use or safety of this number of psychiatric drugs taken together.
One of my dearest friends called me this morning to tell me about the Exclusive Report that would be airing tonight. As I sat watching it, I was hurled back in time to the summer of 2008.
On June 4, 2008, my oldest daughter and son came into our home. When we were going through the paperwork with the caseworker at the actual placement, we were handed a Ziploc bag of prescriptions. My husband’s job during the process was to find out what each medication was for, because the caseworker had no clue. (This was the second of four caseworkers we would have with these two children in our 13 months before their adoption was finalized.)
We had never heard of the first medication the little girl was on, which was Respiridone (Brand Name: Resperdal). When my husband pulled up the information online, we were appalled to find out that the medication is an antipsychotic medication.
Risperidone (Risperdal) is an antipsychotic medication used to treat mental illnesses including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and irritability associated with autistic disorder. Ropinirole (Requip) is a dopamine agonist used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and Restless Legs Syndrome. It is also used to treat episodes of mania (frenzied, abnormally excited, or irritated mood) or mixed episodes (symptoms of mania and depression that happen together) in adults and in teenagers and children 10 years of age and older with bipolar disorder (manic depressive disorder; a disease that causes episodes of depression, episodes of mania, and other abnormal moods). Risperidone is also used to treat behavior problems such as aggression, self-injury, and sudden mood changes in teenagers and children 5-16 years of age who have autism (a condition that causes repetitive behavior, difficulty interacting with others, and problems with communication). Risperidone is in a class of medications called atypical antipsychotics. It works by changing the activity of certain natural substances in the brain.
Why is this medication prescribed?
Risperidone is used to treat the symptoms of schizophrenia (a mental illness that causes disturbed or unusual thinking, loss of interest in life, and strong or inappropriate emotions) in adults and teenagers 13 years of age and older.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Risperidone may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- a long list can be found at the link above, I will highlight the ones that are shocking
- dreaming more than usual
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- breastmilk production
- vision problems
- muscle or joint pain
- dry or discolored skin
- difficulty urinatingSome side effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms or those listed in the IMPORTANT WARNING section or the SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS section, call your doctor immediately:
- unusual movements of your face or body that you cannot control
- slow movements or shuffling walk
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
- painful erection of the penis that lasts for hours
Risperidone may cause children to gain more weight than expected and for boys and male adolescents to have an increase in the size of their breasts. Talk to your doctor about the risks of giving this medication to your child.
There is much more information about this drug at the link above, as well as a wealth of information in other articles and websites. My daughter had nothing medically wrong with her that would have precipitated a prescription for an anti-psychotic drug at all, much less one such as Risperdal! It would have been understandable if they had been diagnosed with attention deficit issues, because she showed classic signs of ADHD. However, according to this NY Times article:
But Risperdal is not approved for attention deficit problems, and its risks — which include substantial weight gain, metabolic disorders and muscular tics that can be permanent — are too profound to justify its use in treating such disorders, panel members said.
One thing to keep in mind: my daughter that came to us with a prescription for Risperdal was 6-years-old when she came to us! If you read the information, you will see that the youngest age even mentioned in the “recommendation” is 10-years-old, but in most cases, the youngest recommended age is 13-years-old!
This is such a problem, that in 2010, a Philadelphia lawyer filed a lawsuit on the behalf of 10 families whose children were prescribe Risperidal.
I have been trying to have something done about this problem of foster care children being prescribed medications needlessly for 3 1/2 years now! In my next article, I will tell you things that will blow your mind, in regards to how many people I have talked to and reported this problem to, and nothing has been done!
Thankfully, Senator Carper from Delaware was appalled when he read the the GAO report, stating:
“I was almost despondent to believe that the kids under the age of one, babies under the age of one were receiving this kind of medication.”
Finally, someone in Washington is taking notice of how broken the foster care system is!
Thank you, Senator Carper, for hearing the voice of the children!