Government Oversight Councils Contribute to Opioid Crisis

July 13th, 2017 | Breaking News

The Washington Post reported on July 6, 2017 that there’s a “glimmer of hope” for the devastating opioid crisis that has ravaged our Nation killing close to 180,000 people between 2000 and 2015.  According to the article Opioid Prescriptions Dropped for the First Time in the Modern Drug Crisis, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the number of opioid prescriptions written between 2012 and 2015 declined by 13.1%. But before breathing a sigh of relief that this crisis may be ending, there still are serious issues:

  1. The prescription rate for opioids is still three times the level it was in 1999 and 4 times what it is in some European countries.
  2. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s acting director, said that even with this decline in opioid prescriptions, “enough opioids were ordered in 2015 to keep every American medicated around-the-clock for three weeks.”
  3. In 2015 there were more than 33,000 deaths from prescription opioids. 13,000 more people died from heroin overdoses.

If this is considered the first sign of any progress after almost two decades of hopelessness, it is troubling. The fact is questions surround the accuracy of stale statistics being utilized to highlight this “glimmer of hope.”  The wavering light of improvement touted in the article appears to be coming from data that is two years old.  Gary Mendell lost his son Brian to addiction in 2011 and started the anti-drug advocacy group, Shatterproof, to bring more attention to the opioid crisis.  Mendell expressed concern over the CDC’s methods of collecting and analyzing data in the United States, calling it “cumbersome and inefficient.”  AbleChild shares Mendell’s concerns.

According to Connecticut’s Public Health Department website, “Within the realm of public health, mortality statistics are often used as a cornerstone in formulating health plans and policies to prevent or reduce premature mortality and improve our quality of life.” So, what happened?  Why no real progress?

Today, behavioral health “oversight” councils exist in every state.  Federal legislation fuels the councils with mental health block grants that are dispersed to the billion-dollar behavioral health industry.  The outcome of being ruled by behavioral health councils equates to the more money given, the more the crisis grows.  The opioid crisis has been determined to be a behavioral health problem because psychiatry has determined that addiction is a mental illness.  What is odd about this determination is that there is no science to support that addiction is an abnormality of the brain.

Nevertheless, the Behavioral Health Oversight Partnership Council (BHOPC) ultimately reports through the executive branch. The committee members are mental health vendors that sell their products and services to the government to reach consumers. They make recommendations on how the block grant money is spent, actually write the legislation, and are never audited. Obviously this is a clear and present conflict of interest and is deadly for the consumer. Members are not elected and the policies they influence increase their financial bottom line.

The Connecticut BHP Oversight Council current opioid crisis plan is outlined in a vendor’s presentation entitled Project Echo a 3-pronged solution. Simply put, it’s an “Access, Drug, Drug” approach. Missing in all the glossy presentation marketing material is enforcing informed consent for patients on what these drugs really are, the possible side effects, and a lack of access to natural alternatives that don’t involve prescribing more drugs such as Soboxone and Naxolone.

The Council fails to educate the consumer on how and why to report an adverse drug event via MEDWATCH. After all, the FDA uses the MEDWATCH consumer reporting system to regulate the drug companies; one would think this is important for the consumers to have access to during this prescription drug crisis, but apparently not.  Yet, it is difficult to miss the executive branch bootlicking praise of yet another mental health vendor’s experience and knowledge in the field of addiction.

The BHPOC recently welcomed back Lori Szczygiel to re-assume the role of Chief Executive Officer for Beacon Health Options, a prominent behavioral health company. In the presentation distributed by the Council for Beacon, entitled Health Inequity in the Connecticut Medicaid Behavioral Health Services System: A Roadmap for Improvement.  It was shocking to see a clear marketing strategy to target certain racial and ethnic groups in the Beacon “three-pronged plan” with the roadmap rational jargon of “unmet” mental health “needs” of Blacks and Asians in particular. Considering that the “solutions” they are presenting mostly involve prescribing more drugs, it seems dangerous and discriminatory to be singling out any race or ethnicity as a target for treatment.

This would not be the first time a behavioral health provider would use the “bad gene pool approach” to capture more mental health clients for their addictive drug treatment programs. A psychiatrist in Texas made national news explaining to the legislators why children in foster care were given massive psychiatric drugs. The psychiatrist indicated the reason the children were given multiple drugs, off label, was because they were from a “bad gene pool.” AbleChild stood with the NAACP for that psychiatrist to step down. Clearly, this racial and ethnic “Beacon Theory” should be backed up with some science.

The lack of science and accurate data is appalling and must be called out as a major contributing factor in the overall opioid death toll.

 

Landmark Legislation: Consumer Protection MedWatch Phone Number Placed on Generic Prescription Drug Containers in Connecticut

July 15th, 2015 | Breaking News

For immediate release: July 15, 2015
Contact Sheila Matthews, Cofounder AbleChild (203) 253-0329
Westport, Connecticut

Landmark Legislation: Consumer Protection
MedWatch Phone Number Placed on Generic Prescription Drug Containers in Connecticut

AbleChild is pleased to announce the passage of Connecticut SB 28, a bill that makes it mandatory for all generic prescription drug containers to carry the 1-800 MedWatch telephone number. This is a first-in-the-nation legislative action to provide this important consumer information and a landmark win for consumers in Connecticut. In February of 2015, AbleChild proposed an amendment to SB 28, taking the unique opportunity to propose this very specific protection on behalf of the consumers.

MedWatch is a drug safety reporting system made available to consumers to allow direct reporting of Adverse Drug Events to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Information provided to MedWatch, by consumers, provides a unique tool to the FDA by giving the federal agency the ability to identify adverse reactions and monitor prescription drugs. The information collected about adverse reactions is used to determine if FDA action is needed on a specific drug.

According to the FDA, it receives information on less than 1% of the actual adverse drug reactions (ADRs) from the consumers. Prescription drugs are currently responsible for killing more people annually than illegal drugs, and according to Tom Friden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “It’s a big problem and getting worse.” Furthermore, according to the Medical Journal of Medicine, prescription drugs are responsible for 291 deaths every day.

Representative David Baram of Bloomfield, co-chairman of the General Law Committee, stated that, “The passage of legislation requiring the MedWatch information to be provided with prescription medications is a positive consumer bill.  I applaud Sheila Matthews for bringing this to our attention and helping us to pass this great consumer protection legislation.  Now consumers will have information on how they can report adverse prescription reactions so the manufacturers can review medication issues, and the FDA can re-evaluation safety concerns.  This is a major consumer protection that will help promote the safe use and manufacturing of medicines that many of us rely on to live productive lives.”

Senator Joe Markley, who also supported AbleChild’s efforts from the beginning said, “I’m delighted at the progress AbleChild has made in getting out the word on MedWatch, which will enhance the conversation on prescription drugs.  Reactions to these drugs differ dramatically, and it’s important that people who have a bad experience have a place to report what happened.  I hope we can do more to let people know about MedWatch, and to make them aware of the problems sometimes associated with certain prescription drugs.”

AbleChild’s amendment received bipartisan support and was unanimously passed on June 1, 2015. AbleChild would like to acknowledge and thank the cosponsors of this important consumer protection legislation, including Senator Joseph J. Crisco, 17th District, Representative Jonathan Steinberg, 136th District, Senator Joe Markley, 16th District, and the General Law Committee Chairman, Representative David A. Baram of the 15thDistrict.

AbleChild also would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the entire General Law Committee staff for their assistance in navigating the often, complicated legislative process.

Child Advocate Report, Claims Adam Lanza “Untreated?”

November 26th, 2014 | Breaking News

This is Dedicated to All Children

The long awaited report from the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate regarding the shooting at Sandy Hook openly admits that the state failed Adam Lanza by not adhering to the special education laws already on the books.  This reinforces AbleChild’s efforts for full disclosure of Lanza’s medical and mental health records to demonstrate the rise of school shootings and their link to psychiatric drug use.

Like almost every aspect of the Sandy Hook shooting incident, this report does not provide actual documentation to support its conclusions, but, rather, a “story” has been crafted for public consumption in an effort to gain support for an increase in the already intrusive mental health programs within the State.

Recall that in the spring of 2013, AbleChild sued the State for release of Lanza’s medical/mental health records and autopsy/toxicology findings.  The State has not released those findings. Rather than rule on AbleChild’s request for full disclosure, the State FOIA Commission determined it was a “legal matter,” and left AbleChild, who had petitioned on behalf of the public, the only option of a lengthy and costly litigation to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

AbleChild’s attorney, Jonathan Emord, wrote that the Medical Examiner’s refusal to disclose information requested by AbleChild “violates the equal protection and free speech clause of the Connecticut and federal Constitution.” AbleChild argued that failure to disclose this information is a public safety issue and tied to a national crisis of school shootings.

What seems clear from the Advocate’s “story,” however, is that Adam Lanza received numerous evaluations and completely subjective psychiatric diagnoses, beginning with the “Birth to Three” system.  Over the course of the next thirteen years, Lanza had been diagnosed with no fewer than nine disorders or disabilities and had been evaluated by no less than three psychiatrists.

Oddly enough, while it seems clear from the Advocate’s “story” that Lanza’s “Individualized Education Plan” (IEP) “Team” was at least aware of his mental health issues, albeit having an incomplete record, the “Team” was not as concerned about Lanza’s educational progress. For example, according to the “story,” Lanza completely skipped the entire eighth grade and still was allowed to enter the ninth grade. How exactly did the IEP “Team” make this decision? A show of hands? Secret ballot? All those in favor say, “aye?”

Adam Lanza, according to the “story,” was not receiving home-bound or hospital based tutoring.  He was not attending school at all, for the entirety of his eighth grade year but the IEP “Team” got together in June of 2006 to set up Lanza’s class schedule for the ninth grade? This is incredible.

All too often the Advocate’s “story” places blame on Nancy Lanza, when, in all actuality it was the psychiatrists, psychologists, IEP “TEAM,” and the Yale Child Study Center that dropped the ball which is clearly evidenced by the numerous admissions that, “there are no records…”.  One thing is certain, the decision to allow Adam Lanza to enter the ninth grade, without having completed any of the required work in the eighth grade, could not, by law, be made by Nancy Lanza.

And, to make matters worse, Lanza apparently was allowed to remain out of school, with no tutoring or Home-Bound services based on his psychiatrist’s evaluation…the same psychiatrist, Dr. Paul Fox, who was referred to Nancy Lanza by the Newtown School system and who subsequently voluntarily gave up his license to practice in New York and Connecticut because of his sexual relations with patients. The same Dr. Fox destroyed his patient records, fled the country, and is currently living in New Zealand.

Despite what appears to be a complete disconnect between the school district and Dr. Fox, the Child Advocate’s Office recommends that these kinds of referrals by the school to outside psychiatrists continue. Where is the oversight? Who determines which psychiatrists are qualified? And, given that Fox destroyed all of his records in this case (and who knows how many other referrals) where is the accountability?  This is the exact reason informed consent is critical and should always include the right to refuse psychiatric labels and drugs.

Also of interest is the never before released information about “The Big Book of Granny.” Recall, that this school project has been used repeatedly by “mental health professionals” to make the case that Lanza’s violent tendencies began at a very young age.  Now, thanks to the Child Advocate’s “story,” the public has learned that this was a joint effort and co-written by another fifth grade boy.

The question, of course, is how much of the violence can actually be attributed to Adam Lanza? The Child Advocate’s office does not answer that question, but, rather, continues down the psychobabble path that the book stands out “to mental health professionals” as a text marked by extreme thoughts of violence and there should have been an intervention. But whose “thoughts of violence?”

In the end, and of little surprise, the Child Advocate’s Office provides pages and pages of recommendations that will increase mental health intrusions into the school system. And all of these recommendations are based on flawed, misleading and incomplete records of the “services” provided to Adam Lanza.

Yes, Senator Murphy, it is “Disgraceful”

July 21st, 2014 | Breaking News

Ablechild finds it interesting and disturbing that Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn) felt compelled to chastise the handling of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site, as reported by The Hill “Twitter Room” “all you need to know about the character of Ukrainian rebels is the disgraceful way they are handling crash site, bodies.”

Clearly there is much to be desired about what has, so far, transpired regarding the response to that horrific crash, but one also must wonder why Senator Murphy has not displayed the same concern about the handling of the investigation much closer to home – the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

First, as many are aware, Ablechild believed that Adam Lanza’s toxicology, medical and mental health records were key to understanding the motive for the attack and sued the state for those records. Claiming that Ablechild was not a stake holder in the case, the request was denied. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on increased mental health services in Connecticut, there is no information publicly available that supports Adam Lanza’s lack of mental health services.

Given that Sen. Murphy believes that the investigation in the Ukraine is “disgraceful” because of the handling of the investigation, one might also find the state’s stonewalling on Lanza’s mental health records is equally “disgraceful.”

Additionally, since the release of the State Police investigation in December of 2013, information has been made public that raises interesting questions about the shooting incident. For example, how is it possible that the State Police report would list two different Garmin Nuvi models (200 or 550) being found either in Lanza’s Honda Civic parked in front of the school or found in Lanza’s bedroom closet? This is important information for which no clarification has been provided.

Furthermore, what about the envelope taken from the Lanza home which was addressed “for the young students of Sandy Hook Elementary School?” Given that the DNA found on the envelope and affixed stamp is neither Adam or Nancy Lanza’s, but does match that of a convicted felon in New York, wouldn’t Senator Murphy be interested in this oddity?

More importantly, is it wrong to wonder why Sen. Murphy, or any other Connecticut legislator, aren’t interested in what was found in the envelope of a convicted felon that was addressed to “the young students of Sandy Hook Elementary School or how, for that matter, the DNA of a convicted felon in New York even ended up on this envelope?

More odd, why isn’t Sen. Murphy interested in the fact that this particular piece of physical evidence made it into the State Police report but was not mentioned by State’s Attorney, Stephen Sedensky? And, as a side note, is it possible that Sen. Murphy doesn’t find it even remotely odd that not one of the bullets reportedly fired from the Bushmaster Rifle match the barrel of that weapon?

Of course, Ablechild appreciates Sen. Murphy’s concern for the tragic situation in the Ukraine, but we can’t help but wonder why there are no “tweets” from the Senator about a flawed investigation in his own backyard.

 

Ablechild Supporters

December 25th, 2013 | Legislation Alerts

Dear Ablechild Supporters,

It has been an amazing year!  Your help has brought the mission of Informed Consent relating to psychiatric drugs to a new level.  In order to keep up the continued fight, we are in need of your generous donations.

We are one of the only organizations in the United States that has been on the front lines of this war against our basic parental rights.  One of the most fierce engagements we had was with the State of Connecticut over the disclosure of Adam Lanza’s mental health, special education, and toxicology report.  We appeared before the freedom of information commission and forced the State to admit the reason why they did not want to disclose the records.

Our website continues to receive increased traffic and the media often seeks us out for our opinion.  This upcoming legislative session in Connecticut and throughout the Country will be totally focused on mental health.  The multi-billion dollar mental health and drug industry will be setting the agenda, we cannot let this happen.  Their agenda has already been spelled out to massively screen ALL children within the public education system for mental illnesses.  As we know, there is no test.   It is totally subjective and will traffic children into an unmanageable whirlwind of drug use.  As we have witnessed time and again the deadly school shootings ending with the shooter’s suicide, we cannot stand by and allow this to happen.

Although the economy is in a deep recession, we cannot think of a better cause then to stop the violence these drugs are inducing into our society.  We urge you to support Ablechild and its continued mission of informed consent by making a year end contribution that is tax deductible.  Knowledge is power, share the information.

We wish you a healthy and happy New Year.

The Ablechild Team

 

 

 

Ablechild Releases FOI Post Hearing Documents

September 13th, 2013 | Breaking News

Both the State of Connecticut and Ablechild have submitted final documents in post hearing briefs as requested by the FOI Commission. See links below.

2013-9-12 – AbleChild Post-Hearing Brief

STATESLASTSUB

Ablechild’s mission is Informed Consent.   Our goal is to ensure that every parent, caregiver, and decision maker has all the information before placing their children or child onto mind-altering drugs, and to ensure they are told as part of the “reality” of informed consent that psychiatric disorders are subjective in nature – a fact the State of Connecticut seems to want to ignore and seems filled with shame to disclose.

The famous, renowned medical doctor and former Ablechild board member put it best into words.

Dr. William Glasser,  “Clearly to diagnose a mental illness such as those described in the DSM-IV, one of the basic tenets of the medical model is completely ignored. In those instances, mental illness is diagnosed from symptoms alone and no supportive pathology is required. This misuse of the medical model has led to the present ever-increasing assortment of diagnoses and treatments, none of which even comes close to meeting the requirements of medical science.”

Reference: Defining Mental Health as a Public Health Issue, A New leadership role for the helping and teaching professions, William Glasser, M.D. 

Immediately after the Newtown, Sandy Hook mass murder/suicide, Ablechild was contacted not only by parents within Sandy Hook, Newtown, Connecticut but throughout the Country urging us to obtain valuable information to ensure that this type of senseless loss of life never happens again.

Seeing beautiful young babies snubbed out, we committed ourselves to that task.  The post hearing briefs linked within are historical and will forever be within the records of history.  We dedicate our efforts to all parents and children.  We will continue to keep you updated on our efforts.

Sincerely,
Ablechild.org

 

Billion Dollar Drug Company Law Firm Restructures Connecticut Welfare System

March 10th, 2011 | News Archive

By Bob Fiddaman and Shelia Matthews

For some time now, Sheila Matthews has been suspicious about her home state of Connecticut’s treatment of its most vulnerable children. As a mother of two children and co-founder of Ablechild, her instincts led her to scrutinize the dubious relationships among Connecticut’s Department of Children and Family Services [DCF], the pharmaceutical industry and a billion dollar law firm who has defended the likes of Pfizer Inc and Merck & Co., among others.

Sheila’s investigation has led her on a journey that links a non-profit children’s advocacy group, with assets over $15 million [2009] with nationally-renowned mass tort and class action defense law firms, to the Connecticut DCF – an $865 million bureaucracy, as described by the Connecticut Mirror.

The Connecticut DCF serves approximately 36,000 children and 16,000 families across its four Mandate Areas:

  1. Child welfare
  2. Children’s behavioral health
  3. Juvenile Services
  4. Prevention

Sheila’s Ablechild has been questioning the Connecticut DCF since 2003, when Ablechild demanded that the Connecticut DCF immediately ban the use of the antidepressant Paxil in its treatment of mental disorders after multiple studies confirmed Paxil increased the risk of suicide in children and adolescents. This was more than a year prior to America’s Food & Drug Association (FDA) announcement that all antidepressants, including Paxil, should bear a black box warning regarding this suicide risk. Ablechild was disturbed that children in state custody were being prescribed this dangerous psychotropic medication. Ablechild’s public pressure paid off, and the Connecticut DCF deemed Paxil unsafe for children and adolescents, and according to the DCF drug approval list, Paxil has not been approved for use in over eight (8) years.

In August 2003, less than one month later, Ablechild reported that the commissioner of the Connecticu DCF held a ‘behind closed doors‘ meeting with Glaxo officials. This meeting was reported by the Associated Press, who wrote:

The maker of the anti-depressant Paxil plans to meet this week with Connecticut officials, weeks after the State stopped using the drug to treat young people in its care.

GlaxoSmithKline, a British pharmaceutical company, is sending its regional medical director and a medical team to meet with officials from the Department of Children and Families. [Source]

Despite repeated requests from Ablechild, the Connecticut DCF refused to inform the public what was discussed at this secret meeting.

Eight years later, Sheila and Ablechild continue to raise concerns and investigate potential wrongdoings and conflicts within the Connecticut DCF. Last month, in February 2011, Sheila attended a meeting sponsored by the Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership [CBHP], where its medical director, Dr Steven Kant, presented the Husky Behavioral Pharmacy Data. The CBHP is a state vendor that provides mental health services to DCF children. These services are paid, in part, by the State-run insurance program, HUSKY. Incredibly the pharmacy data presentation showed that dangerous psychotropic drugs, like Paxil, are still being prescribed to thousands of children and adolescents. In fact, the Pharmacy Data presentation showed that the HUSKY program, financed by taxpayer dollars, paid drug companies over $60 million for psychotropic drugs for Connecticut’s children and adolescents in 2009 alone – many of which are not approved by the FDA for use in the pediatric population and all of which carry the most serious warning possible regarding the risk of suicide.

According to the pharmacy data presentation: [Which can be downloaded as a Powerpoint presentation HERE]

More than 50% of HUSKY Youth Behavioral med utilizers are on stimulants.
Close to 30% of HUSKY Youth Behavioral med utilizers are on antipsychotics.

The pharmacy data also revealed the following:

Most Frequently Used Behavioral Meds for DCF-Involved Youth

Medications for ADHD

  • Ritalin (10%)
  • Adderall (5%)
  • Vyvanse (4%)
  • Strattera (3%)

Atypical Antipsychotics

  • Abilify (11%)
  • Risperdol (10%)
  • Seroquel (8%)

Anti-anxiety

  • Hydroxyzine (2.5%)

Antidepressants

  • Prozac (4.5%)
  • Zoloft (4%)
  • Zyban (3%)
  • Desyrel (2.5%)
  • Celexa (2%)

Mood Stabilizers

  • Lithum (3%)
  • Depakote (3%)
  • Lamictal (2.5%)

Curiously, none of the above medications are on the Connecticut DCF list of approved/unapproved drugs listed in its DCF PMAC document.

With this in mind, Sheila Matthews contacted Dr Steven Kant and inquired as to whether any of the above drugs were approved by the Connecticut DCF for use in children.

Dr Kant replied:

… the answer to your question is not that straight forward.. . . Medications may be indicated by age and/or by specific treatment needs so it is not either a simply “yes” or “no”. Also, some medications may have the age indication but for a totally different condition, such as anti epileptic condition. . .Also FDA indications are static, they do not change over time though medical practice is constantly evolving…

Contradicting the very document that lists Connecticut’s approved and unapproved drugs, a “check-off” list that verifies the status of medications, Dr Kant replied, “I don’t think a “check off” for each medication would work in terms of verifying their status.”

With such an ambiguous response from Dr. Kant, we found the DCF Approved Medication List on the Internet. This particular version was revised in 2009.

It appears that the DCF has approved drugs in children that have not been approved for children by the FDA. In fact, the FDA has issued multiple advisories and alerts since 2004 about the increased risk of suicide in children, adolescents and young adults up to age 25 who are treated with psychotropic medications.

And while Fluoxetine (Prozac) is the only medication approved by the FDA for use in treating depression in children ages 8 and older, it still carries a black box warning regarding the risk of suicide.

In contrast, the DCF seems to be ignoring the conclusions of the FDA. Its list of approved medication in children and adolescents include every single antidepressant except paroxetine [Paxil] and venlafaxine [Effexor].

Forest Lab’s citalopram [Celexa] – APPROVED

Forest Lab’s escitalopram [Lexapro] – APPROVED

Solvay Pharmaceuticals’ fluvoxamine [Luvox] – APPROVED

Pfizer’s sertraline [Zoloft] – APPROVED

GlaxoSmithKline’s bupropion [Wellbutrin -also marketed as an anti-smoking cessation drug under the name of Zyban] – APPROVED [1]

Alarmingly, the DCF has produced a guide entitled, “MEDICATIONS USED FOR BEHAVIORAL & EMOTIONAL DISORDERS – A GUIDE FOR PARENTS, FOSTER PARENTS, FAMILIES, YOUTH, CAREGIVERS, GUARDIANS, AND SOCIAL WORKERS” where it writes, “Most of the side effects from the medications are mild and will lessen or go away after the first few weeks of treatment.” The guide also points out possible side effects of SSRI’s/SNRI’s:

SSRIs and SNRIs:

  • Headache
  • Nervousness
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Weight Loss

One of the most dangerous side effects of these medications, suicidal thoughts/ideation, doesn’t even make the 5 bullet-pointed list. The Guide does, however, add the following: “Watch for worsening of depression and thoughts about suicide.”

The DCF Approved Medication List writes:

“The DCF Approved Medication List is a list of psychotropic medications that has been carefully established by the Psychotropic Medication Advisory Committee, a group of DCF and community professionals.”

Sheila has since investigated other advocacy groups that were concerned about the off-label prescribing of psychiatric medications to youths in state custody. This is where she stumbled upon Children’s Rights, a non-profit charity based in New York City.

In 2005, Children’s Rights employed ten (10) attorneys and a staff of 31. It claims to use its expertise to change child welfare red tape and scrutinize failing systems. If the child welfare system fails to respond, Children’s Rights files a lawsuit. If successful, it enforces reform and then monitors its implementation.

In 1989, Children’s Rights had in fact filed a suit against William O’Neill and the Connecticut state Department of Children and Youth Services [DCYS].

The suit charged that an overworked and underfunded DCYS failed to provide services including abuse and neglect investigations, adoption, foster care, mental health care, caseloads and staffing. The case has been pending for over twenty (20) years, and while there have been numerous arguments that DCYS should be more inclusive or has failed to provide certain services, the issue of massive off-label prescription of psychotropic medications has never been brought to the court’s attention.

Children’s Rights is chaired by Alan C Myers, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, a billion dollar law firm which represents the pharmaceutical industry in mass torts and class actions. Myers is also co-head of the firm’s REIT Group [Real Estate Investment Trust].

Also, listed on the Children’s Rights website are individuals and law firms that have served as co-counsel on Children’s Rights’ legal campaigns to reform America’s failing child welfare systems, including:

Missouri Shook Hardy & Bacon – Eli Lilly Co. and Forest Labs, defended the original Wesbeker Prozac trial in Kentucky and still defend Prozac, Celexa and Lexapro.

New JerseyDrinker Biddle & Reath – GlaxoSmithKline attorneys – defended Paxil as local counsel in Philadelphia cases.

OklahomaKaye Scholer LLP – provides work in Pharmaceutical Products Liability defense and employs an attorney who was former General Counsel of Pfizer, Inc.

A particular success for Skadden Arps occurred in 2010 when it secured a summary judgement ruling for Pfizer Inc. in a suit filed by two insurance companies who sought $200 million in damages for Pfizer’s predecessors alleged “off-label” marketing of its epilepsy drug, Neurontin.

Furthermore, in February 2011, Skadden Arps secured the dismissal of over 200 cases in a multi-district litigation pending against their client, Pfizer Inc. The plaintiffs had alleged injuries related to the use of Pfizer’s anti-epilepsy drug, Neurontin.

Neurontin, the generic version is called gabapentin, is prescribed by psychiatrists for a variety of “off-label” indications. It is often tried as an alternative treatment, when patients are unable to tolerate the side effect of more proven mood stabilizers such as lithium. [2]

Gabapentin has also been associated with an increased risk of suicidal acts or violent deaths.

This is a drug that has been known to cause behavioral problems, which include unstable emotions, hostility, aggression, hyperactivity or lack of concentration.

Children dependent on child welfare systems have rights and, according to its web page, Children’s Rights is dedicated to protecting them.

It should come as no surprise that the site fails to discuss the off-label prescription of non-approved psychotropic medications to children and adolescents, unless this falls under the ‘abuse and neglect’ category?

If Children’s Rights’ motive was to accomplish fixing the child welfare system then why hasn’t it investigated why thousands of children under state care are prescribed “off-label” psychiatric drugs? With a partner in a billion dollar pro-pharmaceutical law firm as its Chair, and supporters who also defend pharmaceutical products, is it safe to assume that its stance on the drugging of children is one that is being ignored?

Children’s Rights push to remove abused and neglected children into safety.

The basic question always comes down to trust. When power, money and a good cause is mixed, it is imperative to check motives. We would be less of a society if we didn’t check out all the facts. Abuse and neglect exist, always has and always will, but society is obligated to ensure those victims are not transformed into “good cause victims” and expensed out. There is no doubt we have a right to question the system and those who claim to promote change for the good of the children within it.

Children’s Rights Chairman, Alan C. Myers, Medical Director of Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership, Steven Kant and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families may get their knickers in a twist with regard to an advocate of Ablechild and a blogger from Birmingham, UK questioning their motives but hey, what’s the downside of shinning a light on all these players, be they good or bad players?

Sheila’s concern is that Children’s Rights with its multi-million dollar budget and with the help of its billion dollar law firms, will continue to ignore the risks of these unapproved and dangerous medications, under the guise of helping our nation’s most vulnerable children. The question remains: how can the lawyers who defend pscyhotropic drugs also be the same lawyers who advocate for abused and neglected children to get into state welfare programs which place these children on the same drugs? The conflict is clear and obvious – and it poses an unmistakable danger to children who truly need our help.

[1] Bupropion [also known as Wellbutrin, Zyban] is a non-tricyclic antidepressant.
[2] Gabapentin

Bob Fiddaman is the author of the Seroxat Sufferers blog and the book, “The evidence, however, is clear… the Seroxat scandal.” Chipmunka Publishing.

Sheila Matthews is the co-founder of Ablechild and a mother of two children.

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