No More Psychotropic Drugs For Migrant Kids Without Consent, US Judge Rules

By Victoria Kim 08/03/18

Several migrant children have given disturbing testimony about being forced to take psychotropic drugs at a facility in Texas.

US District Judge Dolly Gee
US District Judge Dolly Gee ordered the government to obtain consent or a court order before administering the medications. Photo via YouTube

The Trump administration must end the practice of unreservedly administering psychotropic medication to migrant children in U.S. custody, a federal judge ruled.

On Monday (July 30), U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles ordered the government to obtain consent or a court order before administering medication such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, except in dire emergencies.

Several migrant children have given disturbing testimony of their treatment at Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas, one of many facilities contracted by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement to house immigrant children since 2013, the Washington Post reported

One 12-year-old boy named Lucas R. from Guatemala, who was detained in February, was transferred to Shiloh after refusing to take Zoloft, a popular antidepressant, because it was causing him stomach pain, according to court filings.

Medical staff at the facility diagnosed the boy with major depressive disorder and informed him that he would continue to be held at Shiloh unless he was declared psychologically sound.

But the court documents contend that a large part of his depression had to do with “being kept from his family” who had arrived in the U.S. before him, according to the Post.

Other testimony described the forceful administration of medication on children on multiple occasions. “I witnessed staff members forcefully give medication four times… Two staff members pinned down the girl… and a doctor gave her one or two injections,” said Isabella M., another child at Shiloh who was prescribed “multiple psychotropic medications” at the facility including topiramate, without her family’s consent.

“Nobody asked me for permission to give medications to my daughter, even though the staff at Shiloh has always had my telephone number and address,” Isabella’s mother testified.

Other children described being forcibly injected with drugs and being given pills “every morning and every night.”

Another child at Shiloh, Julio Z., said he “never knew exactly what the pills were.” Court documents list his drug regimen: Clonazepam (anti-anxiety), Divalproex (anti-convulsant), Duloxetine (anti-depressant), Guanfacine (ADHD medication), Latuda (anti-psychotic), Geodon (anti-psychotic), and Olanzapine (anti-psychotic).

“The staff threatened to throw me on the ground and force me to take the medication. I also saw staff throw another youth to the ground, pry his mouth open and force him to take the medicine,” Julio Z. testified. “They told me that if I did not take the medicine I could not leave, that the only way I could get out of Shiloh was if I took the pills.”

The Center for Investigative Reporting also found that a doctor at Shiloh had for nearly a decade prescribed psychotropic medication to children without board certification to treat children and adolescents.

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