Lawsuit Challenging Overmedication of Children in Missouri Foster Care Moves Forward, Judge Rules

Contact: Daniel Kessel, 646-216-3343, dkessel@childrensrights.org

“Too Many, Too Much, and Too Young”: Children in Missouri Foster Care Subjected to Powerful Psychotropics

 

(Kansas City, MO) — In a major step forward for children in the state’s foster care system, a federal court in Missouri has granted class action status in M.B. v. Corsi, a lawsuit that alleges system-wide defects in the use of powerful psychotropic drugs on children.

This federal class action lawsuit is the first of its kind, focusing exclusively on the widespread and potentially dangerous use of psychotropic medications among children in state care. The suit alleges that the State of Missouri’s Children’s Division (CD) is engaging in harmful practices that put all children in state care at risk, including:

  • Failure to maintain complete and current medical records for children in foster care and to provide those records to foster parents and health providers to ensure effective and well-informed treatment;
  • Failure to maintain a secondary review system to identify and address high risk and outlier prescriptions to children when they occur;
  • Failure to maintain adequate procedural safeguards to assure the legal rights of children relating to informed consent to the administration of psychotropic medications.

In certifying class action status in the suit, United States District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey emphasized that powerful psychotropic drugs expose children to serious side effects, including hallucinations, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, and chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, adding that psychotropics “should be administered only when necessary.”

Furthermore, the judge points out that the state has knowingly engaged in these harmful practices: “CD itself is aware that the lack of a reasonable system of oversight and monitoring of the administration of psychotropic medications to children in its custody poses a substantial and ongoing risk of harm to the children.”

The class includes approximately 3,105 children in CD’s custody who are administered psychotropic medications. M.B. v. Corsi seeks reforms that will benefit all children in Missouri’s foster care system, approximately 13,500 as of December 2017.

“The unacceptable reality is that children are being left in harm’s way,” said Samantha Bartosz, deputy director of litigation strategy at Children’s Rights. “We are gratified that the Court has agreed that there are major structural issues in the overuse of psychotropic drugs on children in Missouri, and this ruling makes clear the reforms that the Children’s Division must implement for the safety of the kids. These children’s lives are at stake, and there’s no time to waste.”

The case was first filed in June 2017 by national non-profit organizations Children’s Rights and the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), the Saint Louis University School of Law Legal Clinics, and pro-bono counsel Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. For additional background on the case, click here.

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About Children’s Rights: Fighting to transform America’s failing child welfare, juvenile justice, education and healthcare systems is one of the most important social justice movements of our time. Through strategic advocacy and legal action, Children’s Rights holds state governments accountable to America’s most vulnerable children. A national watchdog organization since 1995, Children’s Rights fights to protect and defend the rights of young people, because we believe that children have the right to the best possible futures. For more information, please visit www.childrensrights.org.

About National Center for Youth Law: The National Center for Youth Law is a non-profit law firm that helps low-income children achieve their potential by transforming the public agencies that serve them. For more information, please visit www.youthlaw.org.

About Saint Louis University School of Law Legal Clinics: For more than 40 years the Saint Louis University School of Law Legal Clinics have created a tradition of social justice by providing invaluable legal services to the greater St. Louis community. Dedicated to the University’s Jesuit mission of advocating for the disadvantaged and the betterment of the community at large, the Legal Clinics provide unique and challenging opportunities in a supportive experiential learning environment for every student who desires a clinical experience. For more information, please visit law.slu.edu/clinics.

About Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP: Founded in 1873, Morgan Lewis offers more than 2,200 lawyers, patent agents, benefits advisers, regulatory scientists, and other specialists in 30 offices* across North America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The firm provides comprehensive litigation, corporate, transactional, regulatory, intellectual property, and labor and employment legal services to clients of all sizes—from globally established industry leaders to just-conceived startups. For more information about Morgan Lewis or its practices, please visit www.morganlewis.com