Children’s Rights, alongside the New England-based law firm Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson, P.A., and civil legal aid advocate Maine Equal Justice, filed this case against Jeanne M. Lambrew in their official capacity as Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Todd A. Landry in their official capacity as Director of the Maine Office of Child and Family Services. The lawsuit challenges the unmonitored use of psychotropic drugs for children living in Maine’s care– representing 2,000 children in the state’s foster care system.
According to the complaint, three underlying gaps in the state’s practices are harming children when using powerful psychotropic drugs, including:
- The state does not adequately maintain, update, and disseminate essential medical and mental health records for children in foster care, such that caregivers and providers are not sufficiently informed about psychotropic medications to sufficiently care for them.
- The state does not require adherence to an informed consent policy that calls for prescribers and adults, with genuine input from youth, to consider fully the benefits and risks of psychotropic medications before and after authorizing prescriptions, nor it does allow a meaningful opportunity for individuals to object.
- The state does not adequately assure the secondary review of psychotropic medication to safeguard children from outlier and other dangerous prescription practices.
At the time the complaint was filed, there were 6 named plaintiffs, including Bryan C., who is seven-years-old.
At the age of 5, Bryan was removed from his biological home and placed in foster care following a serious car accident while his mother was driving under the influence. While cycling through multiple settings across the state, he has been administered a cocktail of at least four different psychotropic medications at high doses for a child of his age and size without safeguards to monitor and manage these medications.
These psychotropic drugs have made him withdrawn, anxious, and irritable. He suffers from excessive fatigue, excessive sleeping, and other sleep disturbances that have caused a significant disruption in his learning and development. Bryan has also gained 25 pounds from his medications.
By age 6, he expressed his first of many suicidal ideations, threatening to kill himself with a toy gun. In early 2020, a typical day for him at school consisted of violent behavior toward himself and others and multiple suicidal statements.
In Bryan’s own words, his “brain doesn’t work.” At age 7, he cannot write his own name.