TALLAHASSEE — When a heavily medicated foster child died of an apparent suicide, the response seemed obvious: better oversight of the way doctors prescribe psychiatric drugs to children in state care.
But in the waning days of Florida's 60-day lawmaking session, what looked like common sense to some has no chance of passing.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico, would have required doctors to seek the "assent" of older foster kids before they could be medicated, and upheld provisions of current law that require doctors to gain consent from a parent or judge in most cases before a foster child could be drugged.
"I'm extremely disappointed," said Jim Sewell, who headed up a six-month investigation for the Department of Children & Families into the April 16, 2009, death of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers. "For all of us, this was a real involvement of the heart, and to see it not get codified into law was a big disappointment."
Sewell, a former Florida Department of Law Enforcement deputy commissioner who is now special assistant to DCF Secretary George Sheldon, presided over a series of public hearings on Gabriel's death. Gabriel had been prescribed several mental-health drugs in the months before his death, including antidepressants linked to an increased risk of suicide among children. Sewell's report contained a host of recommendations for changes in state law — many of which were in the bill.
The measure flew through the Senate, but in the House, Rep. Paige Kreegel, a physician, refused to even hear the bill in his health care committee.
"I don't feel right now that we are in definite need of any additional regulation in the state," said Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda.
Storms was outraged that Kreegel was able to kill the bill.
"How can anyone be against protecting children?" she said.