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Florida Foster Children On Psychiatric Drugs

A 7 year old boy in South Florida, Gabriel Myers, committed suicide by hanging himself in the shower on April 16, 2009. Gabriel had been diagnosed ADHD, and had been prescribed antidepressant drugs. The young boy’s death has been blamed on the use of the drugs he was taking. Gabriel was living with a foster family at the time of his death. Due to Gabriel’s untimely death, Florida’s children on psychiatric drugs are being investigated by Florida’s welfare administrators.

Another young patient, Emilio Vallimar, was only 16 years old when he died of a heart attack while being treated by psychiatrist, Dr. Sohail Punjwani. Dr. Punjwani is the same Doctor who had been treating Gabriel Myers. He is being sued by Emilio’s family.


Under a 2005 law, the Agency for Health Care Administration oversees a state program monitoring the prescribing of drugs to children under Medicaid.

The program, Medicaid Drug Therapy Management, tracks the prescribing of psychiatric drugs to children and flags psychiatrists veering from accepted protocols.

300 – 450 psychiatrists of the 17,000 doctors who prescribe drugs to children on Medicaid have been red flagged by this program.



Nearly 3 of every 10 teenage children in foster care are on psychiatric drugs.

73 children younger than 6 are taking psychiatric drugs.

2,669 children or 13% are on drugs.

The largest group, almost 60%, are teenagers 13 -17 years of age.

The figure 2,669 is 1/3 more children than the Department of Children & Families reported being on the drugs.

Florida has had a law for 4 years (since 2005) requiring parental or judicial consent to the use of such drugs on children.

Out of 20,235 children’s case files studied, no parental or judicial consent was given for 16% of those cases.

A review using data from Florida Safe Families Network (FSFN) found no consent or court order record in 433 out of 2669 cases

Providers say some of the cases lack a paper trail, consent was given, but the documentation is lacking.

4% of children living with relatives are on psychiatric drugs as compared to 21% for children in foster homes, and 26% for children in other out of home settings.

In older children—13-17 years old—12% living with relatives are on psychiatric drugs as compared to 35% in foster care, and 33% in other institutional settings.

30% of the kids in a Miami-Dade private agency were given psychiatric drugs compared to 28% for Broward County foster kids.

Contrasted to kids in state care, 4-5% of kids in the general population are taking psychiatric drugs.


A report has been drawn up outlining steps for the Department of Children & Families to take, included among these steps are the following:

• State child welfare lawyers are to seek consent from parents or go to courts.
• Administrators are launching an immediate review to determine how reliable the DCF database is.
• DCF administrators and private agencies are to have weekly telephone discussions on the use of psychiatric drugs by foster children.