JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri officials have made what could be the final payment in a lawsuit that sought to overhaul the way that powerful psychotropic drugs are given to children in the state’s foster programs.
Documents released this month by the Missouri attorney general’s office show the state cut a $3.4 million check to a national nonprofit organization that was part of a settlement agreement reached in December 2019.
The organization, Children’s Rights, was among a number of groups that filed a lawsuit in 2017 on behalf of five children ages 2-14 that claimed Missouri had overused the drugs on foster children and exposed them to “unreasonable risk of serious physical and psychological harm.”
The class action suit said antipsychotics were being used to treat diagnoses like conduct disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. The groups also said proper records were not being kept, meaning children were sometimes prescribed multiple psychotropic drugs at the same time. Use of the drugs risks “psychosis, seizures, irreversible movement disorders, suicidal thoughts, aggression, weight gain, organ damage, and other life-threatening conditions,” the suit said.
The suit was filed against Missouri Department of Social Services officials by the St. Louis University law school legal clinics, the Morgan, Lewis & Bockius law firm, Children’s Rights and the National Center for Youth Law.
Court records show the payout will cover fees and expenses of the legal action by Children’s Rights.
At the time the suit was filed, the groups said about 30% of the state’s 13,000 foster care children were being administered the drugs.
The settlement says all children will now get a mental health assessment before being prescribed a psychotropic drug and “monitoring appointments” at least every three months. The Children’s Division also must obtain “informed consent” from the child’s case manager in consultation with parents or other authorized decision-makers.
The settlement also directed the state to improve its medical records system.
The attorney general’s office documents show the money to pay the settlement came from the state’s general revenue fund.
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Kurt Erickson is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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