Miami Herald
Creating juvenile zombies, Florida-style
May 28, 2011
By Fred Grimm

They’re children of the new Florida ethic. Zombie kids warehoused on the cheap in the state’s juvenile lock-ups. Kept quiet, manageable and addled senseless by great dollops of anti-psychotic drugs.

A relatively small percentage of young inmates pumped full of pills actually suffer from the serious psychiatric disorders that the FDA allows to be treated by these powerful drugs. But adult doses of anti-psychotic drugs have a tranquilizing effect on teenage prisoners. Prescribing anti-psychotics for so many rowdy kids may be a reckless medical practice, but in an era of budget cuts and staffing shortages, it makes for smart economics.

Florida fairly inundates juvenile offenders with this stuff.

The Palm Beach Post reported last week that the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has been buying twice as many doses of the powerful anti-psychotic Seroquel as it does ibuprofen. As if the state anticipated more outbreaks of schizophrenia than headaches or minor muscle pain.

The Post found that Florida purchased 326,081 tablets of Seroquel, Abilify, Risperdal and other antipsychotic drugs during a two-year period for the boys and girls who occupy the 2,300 beds in state-run residential facilities. (Most of the state’s juvenile offenders are held in jails operated by for-profit contractors. Records revealing the quantity of medications that private companies pour down their prisoners’ gullets were not available.)

Such drugs, meant for adults, are known to send children into suicidal despair, along with risking heart problems, weight gain, diabetes and facial tics. Yet, the DJJ and its contract psychiatrists push them willynilly onto their young wards.

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Palm Beach Post

End juvenile injustices
By Rhonda Swan
May 27, 2011

New Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters is right to examine the department’s use of antipsychotic medications following a Palm Beach Post investigation showing that children in DJJ care are being plied with heavy doses of the powerful drugs.

“We will look at everything that surrounds this issue,” Ms. Walters said in an interview. “We’re concerned that any child in our care be given the best medical assistance possible, appropriate to his medical needs.” DJJ’s inspector general will conduct the investigation. Ms. Walters said one of her first acts was to ensure that the inspector general report to the state and not to her. Good move. “That way,” she said, “they can’t give me a report that I simply stick in a drawer.”

As The Post’s Michael LaForgia reported in stories last Sunday and Monday, psychiatrists hired by the DJJ prescribed antipsychotics before federal regulators approved them for children. The drugs can cause suicidal thoughts in children and other dangerous side effects. Gabriel Myers, a 7-year-old who was taking a combination antipsychotic and antidepressant, hanged himself two years ago in his Broward County foster home. The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit concluded that the drugs “may have contributed to his actions directly prior to and during his accidental death.”

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