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JEFFERSON CITY – Children in Missouri's foster care system are the real beneficiaries in a federal judge's "groundbreaking" settlement in November designed to require psychotropic medication only when safe and necessary, a social services spokeswoman said.
"The safety and wellbeing of Missouri children is paramount for the Department of Social Services," Missouri Department of Social Services communications director Rebecca L. Woelfel told the St. Louis Record. "The appropriate and safe prescribing and administering of medications is vital for all Missourians and the Department of Social Services."
Oversight in medicating children in foster care in Missouri will continue, Woelfel said.
"Any and all psychotropic medications administered to Missouri's foster children were and continue to be prescribed and monitored by a qualified, licensed health-care providers," she said.
Woelfel's comments followed a settlement signed in early November by U. S. District Court Judge Nanette K. Laughrey, on the bench in Missouri's Western District, to resolve the civil rights class action case M.B. v. Tidball. That case, filed in 2017, alleged the state had not been providing oversight in the administration of powerful psychotropic medications to children in foster care.
The Tidball case claimed, among other things, that children had been placed on psychotropic drugs without adequate review of their medical histories, informed consent or available second opinions in review extreme cases, according to a news release issued by Children's Rights.
"This settlement is a major victory not just for foster children in Missouri, but young people indiscriminately subjected to psychotropic medications throughout the country," Children’s Rights Litigation Strategy deputy director Samantha Bartosz said in the news release. "We look forward to working with Missouri to establish better practices that prioritize the health and well-being of its most vulnerable children, and will continue to advocate for stronger restraints on the use of psychotropic medications on children in government custody."
The state shares those same goals as outlined in the settlement, Woelfel said.
"Missouri shares the plaintiffs' desire to ensure that Missouri's foster children are safe and well cared for, and we welcome the opportunity to work with stakeholders in the health-care community, the University of Missouri, and plaintiffs' counsel to review and strengthen our processes and procedures," she said. "To that end, Missouri has a system that puts the safety and welfare of children first, and we continue our commitment to ensuring healthy outcomes for all youth and children we serve."