Class-Action Lawsuit Alleges Missouri Failed to Monitor Psychotropic Drugs Prescribed to Foster Youth

A boy in Missouri’s foster care system known as M.B. was placed on six psychotropic drugs at once by the age of 12. During his two and half years in care, M.B.was placed in eight different placements and was prescribed a dizzying array of  powerful medications.

When he was placed in a therapeutic family setting, social workers handed Ericka Eggemeyer, his foster parent, a brown grocery bag full of his medications and no instructions about the drugs.

M.B. struggled with the effects of the slew of pills he had to take, including antipsychotic medications. After a hospitalization, his placement was disrupted, and M.B. ended up in a facility hundreds of miles from home after other residential placements struggled to meet his mental health needs.

A lawsuit from a group of advocates now hopes to rectify the issue of overmedicating foster youth in Missouri like M.B. and others. According to a civil rights lawsuit filed Monday against the Missouri Department of Social Services, a pattern of prescribing powerful psychotropic drugs to children in Missouri’s foster care system without appropriate oversight places them at risk of  “serious physical and psychological harm.”

Missouri Department of Social Services Children’s Division, which was responsible for M.B., failed to maintain a consistent informed consent process to ensure individual attention to his treatment, among other missteps, according to the lawsuit.

Potential long-lasting consequences of psychotropic medications can include increased risk of type 2 diabetes, suicidal thoughts, weight gain and organ damage, among others. Filed in United States District Court in Kansas City, the class-action lawsuit alleges that Missouri failed to implement the 2011 Child and Family Services Improvements and Innovation Act, which requires states to adopt rules governing the appropriate use of psychotropic medications for foster children.

Three advocacy organizations – Children’s Rights, the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) and Saint Louis University School of Law Legal Clinics – filed the lawsuit Monday in a complaint that named two officials leading the Missouri department.

This lawsuit named Jennifer Tidball, acting state director of the Missouri Department of Social Services, and Tim Decker, director of the Children’s Division of DSS, as defendants in the case on behalf of all children and youth who are or will be placed in Missouri’s foster care system.

There are currently 13,000 children and youth in foster care in Missouri.

M.B.’s case was brought by Eggemeyer, a therapeutic foster parent who was newly licensed in 2015 when M.B. became the first child placed in her home, according to the lawsuit.

Four other minors in the Missouri foster care system are also listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which claims they continue to be “at risk of injury as a result of Defendants’ actions and inactions, policies, patterns, customs, and/or practices.”

Read the complaint here.

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