State Spent Nearly $700,000 on Drugs for Youth

State Spent Nearly $700,000 on Drugs for Youth
Posted by FoM on January 16, 2000 at 17:18:58 PT
By The Associated Press
Source: Sacramento Bee
The California Youth Authority, charged with the custody of offenders too young for the state prison system, spent nearly $700,000 last year on drugs to control their rowdier charges, The Record newspaper reported Sunday.The drugs, designed to control depression, schizophrenia and anxiety, are sometimes given to the youths without their consent and usually without the knowledge and consent of the parents, the newspaper said.
Some of the drugs can cause liver failure, permanent physical disorders and cardiac damage.The report was based a four-month investigation."They use it like candy," said Elnorris Stone, a 25-year-old parolee from Oakland. "Anybody who's considered hyper, who fights a lot, they prescribe it a lot. The medication fixes it."The CYA houses 7,514 wards ages 12 through 25 in 15 institutions and camps across California. The scope of psychotropic-drug use is somewhat of a mystery at the authority, which the newspaper said keeps no central records on the total amounts of medications prescribed and the costs.The CYA was troubled last year by allegations its charges were used as guinea pigs in a drug experiment and were roomed with gang rivals, a move that frequently led to fights.The Youth and Adult Correctional Agency Inspector General's Office, which oversees the CYA, is investigating the allegations of excessive use of psychotropic drugs.In a directive issued in September to YACA Secretary Robert Presley, Gov. Gray Davis banned the use of "open prescriptions" of psychotropic medications, reportedly because drugs had been dispensed to wards by Youth Authority staff on an "as-needed" basis.Drugs are not supposed to be used to control behavioral problems.But Keith Osterholt, 22, a ward working as an aide at the O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility several years ago, said he noticed many wards in one residence hall were taking medication that made them appear as if "they were always high on something."One of the staff told me it was to keep them in line, (keep them) from getting hyper, they're easier to handle when they're like that," said Osterholt, who was discharged from CYA parole in 1998.It's standard institutional practice to use mood-altering medications to control behavior, said Dan Macallair, associate director of the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, a San Francisco-based advocacy organization."Typically, psychotropics are used in correctional facilities, not necessarily to treat an identified malady but to maintain control, particularly in kids who are management problems," Macallair said."It's an easy solution that doesn't require staff to sit down with the kids, find out their issues, do background research; it doesn't require a system to address problems outside the institution. This is all about maintaining institutional control.""As a matter of fact, we are aware of allegations," said Brian Rivera, who until he retired on Friday was deputy director of institutions and camps. "We've had our chief of health-care services personally review several hundred records at the four institutions in the Stockton complex. When we get specific allegations, we have investigated them. We also have responded to wards' parents regarding the allegations and concerns."While he declined to discuss specific cases, he did say that all medications, including psychotropics, "are being prescribed for medical reasons by our medical staff."A new Youth Authority policy requires either parental consent for wards younger than 18 or consent from wards who are 18 and older, Rivera said. Stockton, Calif. (AP)  Published: January 16, 2000  Copyright  The Sacramento Bee 
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