By SUSAN EDELMAN
Alarmed at the growing use of psychiatric drugs for children, a key New York lawmaker wants to set up regional centers to advise pediatricians on treating kids’ mental and emotional problems.
State Sen. Thomas Morahan (R-Rockland County) will present a bill to the Mental Health Committee Wednesday to create at least three child-psychiatry centers where doctors statewide can call for consultations on troubled kids.
Under the plan, teams consisting of a psychiatrist, a social worker and a “care coordinator” would discuss the child’s problem, make referrals and provide other support services to the family.
Based on a pioneering program in Massachusetts, the New York plan is aimed at helping troubled children who may be suffering untreated, and at choosing safe treatments.
Morahan said he acted in response to an investigative report in The Post last month that New York’s Medicaid program paid nearly $90 million in 2006 for two dozen psychiatric drugs for kids. The state says that covered 55,700 children 18 and under.
More kids in New York and nationwide are taking powerful anti-psychotics and antidepressants – while most have not been tested adequately on kids or approved by the Food and Drug Administration for their use. Doctors may prescribe them to children or teens “off-label.”
Morahan blasted the FDA policy. “They permit these drugs to be prescribed, regardless what the label says,” said spokesman Ron Levine. “Many pediatricians may not be aware of the ramifications of psychotropic drugs on the market.”
Some of the drugs cause severe – and dangerous – side effects, including Parkinson’s-like movement disorders, weight gain, breast growth in boys, and suicidal tendencies. Experts warn that some kids may be misdiagnosed or overmedicated to control behavior problems.
State Health Department officials told The Post they do not require a diagnosis when paying for the drugs.