Law requires notification when meds are prescribed

From The Oregonian, November 25, 2007 – not elsewhere online

Many of the adults responsible for children in foster care don’t know about Oregon’s Bobby Jackson law.

Jean Ettel, Bobby’s first-grade teacher at Willard Elementary, says she remembers 7-year-old Bobby as a well-behaved boy who was small for his age.

Bobby still had his baby teeth, says Ettel, who also remembers that he liked to play ball.

She didn’t know he was taking a drug to moderate his behavior.

Bobby was given imipramine, an antidepressant doctors had recommended to control his daytime tantrums and nighttime sleeping problems.

WHAT is imipramine?

“Sometimes his little hands would shake when he would write,” Ettel says.

On Jan. 5, 1993, Bobby collapsed at his Eugene foster home after running uphill from school. An autopsy found a lethal dose of imipramine in his body.

The law that the 1993 Legislature passed following Bobby’s death requires foster parents to notify the Department of Human Services within one working day when a child in their care gets a mental health prescription.

Then, caseworkers must notify a child’s parent, lawyer and court-appointed special advocate –or CASA –about why the drug is being given, the dosage and possible side effects.

But that doesn’t always happen.

Steve McCrea, program coordinator with CASA for Children, Multnomah and Washington counties, says notification is “a relatively rare phenomenon.”

The law also allows a child’s parent, lawyer or advocate to petition a judge to order a second opinion.

“Quite frankly,” says Kevin George, the state’s foster program manager, “that doesn’t happen very often.”

George says notification is required by law, but it still depends upon the individual foster parent and caseworker. There’s no statewide database tracking whether children get the follow-up they need.

Bobby’s teacher says she’s sorry to hear that.

The last time Ettel saw Bobby, he was preparing to race a bigger boy in his same class to the foster home where both of them lived.

Ettel gave Bobby a head start.

“He stood at the door and waved at me and said: ‘Goodbye. I’ll see you tomorrow.'”