By Patricia Wen
Six years ago, an 11-year-old boy from Belchertown was experiencing wild mood swings. Counseling sessions did not calm his sometimes violent eruptions. Then one day, the child and his mother walked into the Springfield office of Dr. Kayoko Kifuji, a petite, soft-spoken child psychiatrist who had come to the United States from Japan six years earlier.
She listened intently to Griffin Reid and his mother, taking particular interest in their family history, which included mental illness. Soon, the doctor diagnosed the boy with early signs of bipolar disorder, his mother said. Within a few sessions, the doctor wrote prescriptions for mood-stabilizing drugs. Now, Griffin, 17, is on lithium pills under Kifuji’s care and credits the psychiatrist with giving him a future.
“I probably would be kicked out of school by now if she didn’t come into my life,” Griffin said.
Kifuji and her prescription pad are now at the center of controversy, following the death of one of her youngest patients, a 4-year-old Hull girl who police say died from an overdose of a sedating drug used for bipolar disorder. The parents of Rebecca Riley are accused of intentionally over-medicating the girl and were charged this month with first-degree murder.
Prosecutors have not said whether Kifuji is a target of a criminal probe, saying only that their investigation into the girl’s death remains open. Kifuji began treating Rebecca for bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder starting at age 2 1/2 , and had prescribed three psychotropic drugs. She also treated her two older siblings for similar psychiatric problems…