Re: Resolution No. 2013082 Opposing the Process of Enactment and Certain Provisions Contained Within the New York Safe Act
To All Members of the Public Safety Commission,
I am Patricia Weathers, a Dutchess County Resident and Cofounder of Ablechild, a national non-profit organization with over 25,000 members. Our mission is full informed consent and the right to refuse psychiatric drugs and services. Ablechild is funded by parents, and does not take special interest money.
Our organization has been active since its onset in 2001 on various issues on a State and Federal level. Our primary purpose is to educate the public on the importance of informed consent rights within mental health and education. Simply put, parents and caregivers need to be given all the information before they can make educated and safe choices. This helps protect our children. Many of our parent members have had children that have been seriously harmed or who have died from psychiatric drug “treatment” prescribed them. Over 85% of our parents have had children or grandchildren with adverse side effects that include mania, psychotic episodes, violence, hallucinations and heart conditions to name only a few effects of psychiatric drug use. In fact, the evidence shows that 9 out of 10 school shooters have been linked with psychiatric drug use or withdrawal. Our organization and its parent members have testified before Congress, the FDA and State Legislators numerous times on these many issues.
Ablechild has been actively requesting that Adam Lanza’s medical records be released to the public because this is what is needed to establish the facts to ensure public safety. No legislation should have been enacted until all the evidence was unsealed. The fact that Lanza’s medical records are still sealed from the public should be alarming to all those trying to establish new legislation without all the facts on the matter. What has started recently is a public outcry demanding this. Currently over 300 Newtown residents have signed onto a petition requesting that Lanza’s records be public record. An online petition has gathered thousands of signatures nationwide in just a few days of being put online.
Mental health legislation and gun legislation (specifically the NY SAFE ACT) that was enacted into law rashly without public hearings on the matter and without all the facts is reprehensible and criminalizes the many law abiding, responsible citizens across New York State without just cause.
Though our organization does not wish to make a stand on guns, we do want to emphatically state that we believe that the issue of gun control is diverting this country away from the very real underlying cause of these violent shootings occurring in our nation’s schools. We are asking this committee to think long and hard on this matter and demand with us and the growing public the facts before it supports anymore hastily, impulsive, and dangerous legislation. Thank You.
NEW YORK’S “UNSAFE” ACT
Mental Health Professionals Given Unprecedented Control
The blind leading the blind. That’s how one could sum up New York’s SAFE Act, also known as the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act. Fully aware of the fraud of the sweeping mental health/gun control legislation, at least a million gun owners, directly affected, won’t be participating in the punishing legislation.
New York was the first state in the Nation to enact legislation, instituting the SAFE Act, based on the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary. This legislation was passed in the middle of the night without any public hearings. New York acted without even having the benefit of an investigative report of the incident, classic legislative crisis management.
Ablechild long has been a vocal opponent of the mental health provisions of the SAFE Act for the simple reason that there is no data to support the new mental health requirements that include “mental health professionals to report to their director of community services (DCS) or his/her designees when, in their reasonable professional judgment, one of their patients is “likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self and others.”
There are numerous problems with this section, beginning with the mental health professionals “reasonable professional judgment.” This phrase is a nice way of saying the mental health professionals opinion of a patient’s current and possible future behavior.
There is no argument that all psychiatric diagnoses are subjective…they are not based in science/medicine. There is no objective, confirmable abnormality that is any psychiatric disorder.
The mental health professional diagnoses an alleged disorder based on a subjective opinion of information gleaned from having a conversation with the patient. No blood test, CAT scan, MRI, or any medical test, is utilized to identify an “abnormality” in the patient’s brain.
Once the alleged brain disorder is diagnosed, more often than not, psychiatric mind-altering drugs are prescribed as “treatment.” The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued “Black-box” warnings on many of the psychiatric drugs, including antidepressants which may cause mania, psychosis, hallucinations, aggressiveness, abnormal behavior, suicidality and even homicidality.
Nearly 80 million Americans are taking at least one psychiatric mind-altering drug, with forty-million taking at least one antidepressant. There are 22 international drug-regulatory warnings issued on psychiatric drugs causing violent behavior and researchers have identified 25 psychotropic drugs disproportionately associated with violence, including physical assault and homicide.
As a matter of fact, in New York a bill was proposed in 2000, S1784, which would require the police to report to the Division of Ciminal Justice Services (DCJS), certain crimes and suicides committed by persons using psychotropic drugs. This bill was initiated based on a large body of scientific research establishing a connection between violence and suicide and the use of psychotropic drugs in some cases.
So, the initial mental health diagnosis is not based in science or medicine, but, rather, is the mental health professional’s opinion of the patient’s behavior. The psychiatric drugs prescribed by the mental health professional as “treatment” may actually cause violent behavior, and the mental health provisions of the SAFE Act then allows the same mental health professional to further opine that the patient may be “a harm to self or others?” This is idiotic.
Based on the fact that the FDA has placed “Black-box” warnings on many of the psychiatric drugs – because the drugs may cause violent behavior – there seems little doubt that any, or all, of the patients taking the prescribed psychiatric drugs may be susceptible to the adverse reactions.
The fact is the mental health professional may be responsible for the “conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others” due to the prescribing of the mind-altering drugs. Because mental health professionals admit they cannot predict future violent behavior, it literally is a psychiatric drug crapshoot as to who will experience these drug adverse reactions.
All mental health professionals are aware of the known adverse reactions associated with the prescribed psychiatric drugs. However, despite having this important information, the mental health provisions of New York’s SAFE Act provides unprecedented control over the rights of patients, without their consent, based solely on the mental health professional’s opinion.
Co-founder of Ablechild and New York Chapter President, Patricia Weathers, provided testimony in opposition to certain mental health provisions of New York’s SAFE Act, advising the Public Safety Commission that “…we believe that the issue of gun control is diverting this country away from the very real underlying cause of these violent shootings occurring in our nation’s schools.”
Weathers further testified that “mental health legislation and gun legislation that was enacted into law rashly, without public hearings on the matter, and without all the facts is reprehensible and criminalizes the many law abiding, responsible citizens across New York State without just cause.”
Informed consent and the right to refuse psychiatric drugs and services is the mission of Ablechild. The SAFE Act does not provide informed consent but, rather, provides unprecedented power to mental health professionals that surely will have long-term harmful effects on overall public safety, bypassing individual rights.
Ablechild often is contacted by parents concerning a number of issues surrounding psychiatric diagnosing and psychiatric drugging of children, but the recent information forwarded to us is troubling.
A Connecticut mother, who receives state health benefits, was concerned about a recent letter she received from Acurian Health, a company that “specializes in matching people to clinical research studies,” and forwarded the correspondence to Ablechild.
The mother was concerned about the implications of offering money to low-income mothers willing to enroll their child in a pharmaceutical clinical trial. More than that, she had no idea how Acurian Health obtained her personal information in order to make the “offer.”
Ablechild was equally curious how Acurian obtained this mother’s information and contacted the Behavioral Health Partnership Oversight Council, inquiring whether the state was providing this information to third parties. Ablechild did not receive a reply.
The question is, of course, does Acurian Health have access to the state’s health data? Is it possible this mother unwittingly signed a waiver allowing her personal information to be shared? The mother in question has no memory of providing authorization to release the data, but admitted that the waiver could have been in the “fine print.”
Nevertheless, Ablechild is providing this information to its members in an effort to make families aware of “offers” such as this from Acurian Health. The “offer” is targeting children 7-17 years old who “have Depression or may be experiencing symptoms of Depression,” and the “offer” further explains qualified participants “may receive Depression medication approved for use in adults.”
The only antidepressant approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for adolescents is Fluoxetine or Prozac. All other antidepressants have not been approved for children and adolescents ages 8 and older. The FDA conducted a study including 2,200 children treated with Serotonin Selective Reuptake Inhibitors, (SSRI) medications and 4 percent of those taking SSRI’s experienced suicidal thinking or behavior, including actual suicide attempts – twice the rate of those taking placebo, or sugar pills.
In response to this study, the FDA adopted “black box” warnings – the FDA’s most serious warnings – indicating that antidepressants may increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior. However, there are many other known adverse reactions associated with antidepressants, including mania, psychosis and hallucinations to name a few.
Ablechild cannot help but wonder if these low-income families are being targeted and lured by the pathetic “$50 per visit” offer. We are alerting families to be aware of unknowingly providing authorization for release of personal information to third parties. When applying for state health services, it is important to ask if personal information is shared with third parties and how you may opt out.
Ablechild, and the mother who provided this “offer,” is concerned that families going through tough financial times may be tempted to participate in clinical trials that admittedly will be using dangerous psychiatric drugs that are not approved for children and without informed consent.
When applying for state benefits, it’s important to know your rights and, specifically, to know if personal data will be provided to third parties.
This week The Hartford Courant reported that the Sandy Hook Commission is “hampered by secrecy and lack of funds” and, as a result, there are “serious doubts” of producing a definitive exploration of what occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Oh, puh-leeze! Say it isn’t so, Governor Malloy. Isn’t the Governor the man who said “we don’t yet know the underlying cause behind this tragedy, and we probably never will. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. I want the commission to have the ability to study every detail, so they can help craft meaningful legislative and policy changes?” “Every” detail? That’s just sad. The Governor’s commission can’t get any details.
The Commission doesn’t have access to Adam Lanza’s records? The Commission has no budget? Really? Is this just now, three months from its deadline, occurring to the Commission?
Psychiatrist and Commission member, Dr. Harold I Schwartz, reports that the Commission has been fortunate to have the law firm of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter catalog the State Police Report of the shooting incident, but it’s “laborious” to use.
Can’t argue with the good doctor on that point. Not only was going through that report “laborious,” it was downright irritating. Ablechild spent three full days going through each and every document (if you can call the redacted pages “documents”), and could have saved the Commission a lot of time and frustration.
The fact is, for the last five years of Adam Lanza’s life, there are no medical/mental health records provided in the State Police Report and Ablechild gladly would have shared that information with the Commission months ago, saving it a great deal of time.
Without those mental health records, Dr. Schwartz is absolutely correct when he reported last year that “to write a report now, with what we have, would almost be embarrassing.” Unbelievably, today, despite still having no records about the last five years of Lanza’s mental health treatment, Schwartz says, “I still think that we can issue a report with important recommendations about mental health services, gun safety and school safety. We have spent a lot of time assessing the current state of all three – hearing extensive testimony from officials and experts who have dealt with mass killings.”
Schwartz is admitting that the Commission is clueless about Adam Lanza’s mental health history but, because the Commission has heard from officials and experts about other mass killings, important recommendations still can be made.
This is utter nonsense. The Commission has spoken with Peter Lanza. Did Lanza refuse to share information about Adam’s mental health? This seems odd given the fact that Lanza obviously shared information with The New Yorker reporter, Andrew Solomon. Solomon reported that in 2007 Adam had been prescribed the antidepressant, Lexapro. This information was NOT part of the State Police Report.
Additionally, the Commission might consider an interview with the honchos at The Courant, as it reported, based on information it had obtained, that Adam had been treated at the Danbury Hospital, which also was NOT part of the State Police Report.
Schwartz also may be enlightened if he were to understand the State’s absolute refusal to make public Lanza’s toxicology and medical/mental health records. Ablechild sued the state for these records last year and the reason for the lock-down on the records was made clear by the State’s Assistant Attorney General, Patrick B. Kwanashie, explaining “it would cause a lot of people to stop taking their medications.”
Based on the information provided in the State Police Report, Adam had been prescribed the antidepressant, Celexa in 2007. Add to that reporter Solomon’s new information that he was also prescribed Lexapro, and suddenly it becomes clear that Adam had been on multiple mind-altering drugs.
But that drug information ends five years before the shooting incident. What is the big secret? Was Adam prescribed so many psychiatric drugs that the information would be an embarrassment to his psychiatrist(s) and the pharmaceutical industry?
Obviously, it’s impossible to know without the mental health records. But the Commission’s final report is supposed to focus on recommendations into the mental health area. Really? Based on what information? If the Commission has no records on Adam Lanza’s mental health for the last five years of his life, what’s the point?
If the Commission intends to provide mental health recommendations, which are not the result of having reviewed the mental health records of the shooter, then don’t bother. Stop now. Accept that the Commission’s efforts were a complete waste of time and stick to the original opinion that “to write a report now, with what we have, would almost be embarrassing.”
Since Schwartz’s first admission nothing has changed. The fact that Lanza’s mental health records are shrouded in secrecy, and the state is instituting costly mental health changes merely based on the assumption that Lanza’s mental health played a role, isn’t “almost embarrassing.” It is embarrassing.
On February 14, 2014, Ablechild was interviewed on WGCH 1490 AM, Greenwich, Connecticut. Ablechild left immediately after that interview to the Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut to educate lawmakers on the MEDWATCH “adverse drug” reporting system. Ablechild distributed to every State Representative and Senator a copy of the “MEDWATCH” form along with suggested language to incorporate into law “the ensured access” for the consumer on their right to report “adverse drug events” to the FDA. Take a listen, below:
71 Lewis St.
Greenwich, CT. 06830
After our effort in Connecticut, Ablechild reached out Nationally. We did our first exclusive interview on the National radio show, Republic Broadcasting System with Deanna Spingola, where Ablechild discusses the Sandy Hook, Newtown Investigation, our legislative efforts, and fielded questions from callers throughout the United States, as well as a call from Canada! Take a listen:
Ablechild Guest on Republic Broadcasting Network with Deanna Spingola
Federal MedWatch System Rejected in Public Safety and Security Committee
Ablechild’s legislative efforts to bring awareness to consumers of Connecticut about the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch System have been shot down before ever getting off the ground. It is an odd story, but one that seems to be standard operating procedure for the state’s legislative body.
On Tuesday, February 18th, Ablechild co-founder, Sheila Matthews, drove thru a snowstorm in order to personally testify before the Public Safety and Security Committee regarding two legislative measures: an Amendment, which would include training law enforcement personnel about the existence, and availability of the MedWatch System, and also a new bill requesting that February 14th of each year be recognized as MedWatch Awareness Day.
Ablechild also submitted the two requests electronically prior to the 18th and checked in with the Committee clerk prior to the public hearing. Ablechild was assured its request was received prior to the deadline of 2/20 for Committees to raise bills.
Ablechild was advised by the Public Health Committee that the appropriate committee for such legislative requests would be the Public Safety and Security Committee. Apparently there is some kind of legislative shuffle happening in Connecticut because the reason provided to Ablechild for rejecting the two legislative measures was because the legislation “should have been filed with the Public Health Committee.”
But that isn’t the only oddity. Ablechild was shocked to learn that, despite going to great lengths to be present for the public hearing on February 18th, its testimony was mysteriously missing from the committee’s website – not so much as a mention of Ablechild’s appearance before the committee. Upon inquiring about this “lost testimony,” Ablechild was told that, basically, accidents happen. What are the odds that Ablechild’s testimony for both legislative measures would go missing?
The bigger question, though, is what part of Ablechild’s legislative Amendment is not concerned with Public Safety? SB 98 would provide training to law enforcement as part of the “drug detection and gang identification process…”
The reason behind SB 98 is backwash from the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Everyone is concerned about safety in schools because of the deadly incident, but few realize that Nancy Lanza reported to the Yale Child Studies Center that Adam Lanza was experiencing an adverse reaction to a drug prescribed to him. Despite raising legitimate concerns, Yale did not provide Nancy Lanza with information about how to report the adverse event to the FDA.
The MedWatch System is set up by the FDA in order to allow consumers the opportunity to report adverse reactions to prescription drugs. Given that 70 million Americans currently are taking prescription mind-altering drugs (many of those live in Connecticut), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a staggering 27,000 unintentional overdose deaths are ascribed to prescription drugs, wouldn’t the committee take this information into consideration as a Public Safety issue?
The MedWatch System is about Public Safety. The reporting of adverse drug events plays a huge part in ensuring that the public is safe from drugs that may be harmful and this information can only be obtained if consumers are aware of the MedWatch System.
While Ablechild is shocked by the committee’s blatantly sloppy mishandling of its testimony, the larger issue is the committee’s unwillingness to consider legislation that actually may protect public safety, especially in light of the fact that there is no funding request associated with either piece of legislation.
Seems like a no-brainer. Training law enforcement about a federal drug reporting system that, if used, could help saves lives and at no cost to the state. Thanks to the short-sightedness of the committee, its inability to recognize what could have been a win-win for the state and consumers, this important legislation has been relegated to the trash bin.
Not surprisingly, though, the pharmaceutical-funded National Association of Mentally Ill (NAMI) did not experience the “accidental” loss of its testimony nor was it rejected for consideration. NAMI, and other like organizations who submitted testimony to the committee, are fighting for increased access to mental health (prescription mind-altering drugs) in an already over-prescribed market, while Ablechild is committed to providing informed consent and MedWatch would have been a step in the right direction of protecting parental informed consent.
While Ablechild was willing to work with other organizations to help ensure public safety, it appears that SB98 does nothing to ensure parents rights and, therefore, Ablechild is unable to support this legislation.
Ablechild Submits Legislative Requests in Public Safety and Security Committee
In response to Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s announced funding in the state’s mental health budget, Ablechild has introduce two pieces of legislation with the Public Safety and Security Committee, that would provide informed consent and consumer access to the FDA’s MedWatch adverse drug event reporting system.
It is no secret that prescription mind-altering drugs are linked to a number of violent incidents across the country. It also is no secret that the use of psychiatric drugs is increasing at startling rates. For example, currently 70 million Americans (one in five) is taking a mind-altering drug.
In 2010, alone, more than 250 million prescriptions for antidepressants were written for Americans and ten percent of high school children are prescribed prescription psychiatric drugs to “treat” ADHD. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suggested that there is a greater risk posed by prescription drugs than illicit substances.
As is well known, Ablechild sued the State to obtain Adam Lanza’s mental health records and toxicology report in order to learn whether Lanza had been prescribed psychiatric drugs and whether those drugs may have played a role in his violent behavior.
Although the state refused to make public Lanza’s mental health records and complete toxicology report, what is known is that Lanza had at least been prescribed the antidepressant, Celexa, in 2007. Immediately after taking the Celexa, Nancy Lanza reported to the Yale Child Studies Center that she believed Adam was having an adverse reaction to the drug.
Despite Nancy Lanza’s concerns about the drug, mental health practitioners at Yale did not make Lanza aware of the FDA’s MedWatch System in order that she could report the adverse event, nor is there any information provided in the State Police Report of the shooting that Yale made any effort to report the adverse event to the FDA.
Ablechild has submitted to the Public Safety and Security Committee an amendment to Raised S.B. 98 to include training of the MedWatch System to security personnel. The amendment would make it mandatory to provide verbal and written information to parents of children who are flagged in the drug detection and gang identification process.
Ablechild’s second legislative request to the Public Safety and Security Committee is to make February 14th of each year MedWatch Awareness Day, which would acknowledge the important role the MedWatch System plays in protecting the health and well-being of the State’s consumers.
“Both of these legislative measures,” said Ablechild co-founder, Sheila Matthews, “are an important part of informed consent. This is about public safety, and it’s about making sure that parents know that they can directly report adverse drug events to the FDA. The system is completely private and there is no cost associated with it.”
“Less than one percent of the actual adverse drug events are reported to the FDA,” explained Matthews “because people are not aware that the system exists.” “These legislative initiatives,” said Matthews, “would be a great help to Connecticut consumers and, ultimately, help the FDA decided when action needs to be taken on a drug.”
Both legislative requests have been sent to the Public Safety and Security Committee and Ablechild looks forward to the upcoming public hearings to gain support for the measures.
Is Lanza’s Psychiatrist’s Drugging Indicative of Connecticut’s Mental Health Services?
In today’s Connecticut News Times there was a brief article spelling out the State’s legislative agenda, including efforts to block the right of the public to have access to information on homicides. This legislative measure is in response to the State’s continued unwillingness to make public the mental health records of Sandy Hook shooter, Adam Lanza.
The obvious point of having public disclosure of Lanza’s mental health records is two-fold. First, it is important to know whether Lanza was prescribed any psychiatric mind-altering drugs that may have played a part in his violent behavior. The disclosure of these records also is necessary in order for lawmakers to make informed decisions about costly, mental health legislation.
Ablechild has, for more than a year, used every legal means available in order to persuade the State to release Lanza’s mental health records. Apparently, the State is using Lanza as the backbone of enormous legislative efforts to increase mental health funding and services within the State, yet there is no evidence that Lanza used any State mental health services. All available information reveals that Lanza’s mental health was paid for by private insurance.
Based on the State Police Report, no mental health records are available for Lanza after 2007 when he was 15-years old. Additionally, Lanza’s apparent primary psychiatrist, Dr. Paul Fox, surrendered his license in June of 2012, destroyed his patient records and move to New Zealand, making it impossible to obtain Lanza’s mental health records from the primary source.
Whether Lanza had been prescribed psychiatric mind-altering drugs is extremely relevant to understanding his uncharacteristic violent behavior. Furthermore, it is important to remember that Connecticut Assistant Attorney General, Patrick B. Kwanashie, during the Ablechild FOIA hearing, revealed that the reason for not divulging the identity of the antidepressants he (Lanza) was taking was because it would “cause a lot of people to stop taking their medications.”
Based on this information, it certainly seems that Lanza had been prescribed, at a minimum, antidepressants. However, Ablechild has been contacted by a mother whose young son also had been a patient of Dr. Paul Fox and, based on this child’s medication record, one could easily question whether Lanza’s mental health “treatment” included just antidepressants.
For example, this unidentified ten-year old child began receiving “treatment” from Dr. Fox in 1998 for an apparent diagnosis of Asperger’s and, from what has been made public, Lanza also was diagnosed with Asperger’s at the age of five or six.
Between January 1998 and March of 1999 (14 months), Dr. Fox prescribed to the unidentified ten-year old the following antidepressants: Celexa, Remeron, Effexor and Wellbutrin. Additionally, Fox prescribed Neurontin, an Antiepileptic; Buspar, an Antianxiety; Zyprexa, an Antipsychotic; and Adderall, an Amphetamine.
As if prescribing eight mind-altering drugs to a ten-year old during a 14 month period isn’t outrageous enough, Dr. Fox prescribed these drugs as cocktails. The safety and efficacy for all of these drugs have not been established for pediatric use, nor are there any clinical trials showing safety and efficacy for pediatric use in any of these drug cocktail combinations. The majority of clinical trials last a few weeks or months. In other words, Dr. Fox doesn’t know how these drugs adversely affect a child’s developing brain when prescribed in combination, let alone singularly.
One daily drug regimen for the unidentified ten-year old includes the following:
8AM 1 Celexa (20mg)
4pm 1 Neurontin (300mg)
6PM 2 Buspar (15mg) each
8PM 1 Neurontin (300mg)
10PM 1 or 1/2 Remeron (15mg) if trouble sleeping.
Dr. Fox’s drug “treatment” regimen seems more in line with a chemical lobotomy, especially in light of the patient’s age. But there also is the added concern of adverse reactions associated with the mind-altering drugs prescribed.
For example, each of the Antidepressants carry the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Black Box Warning. This is the federal agency’s most serious warning, which includes increased suicidal thinking and suicidality. More importantly, all of the Antidepressant drugs listed report adverse reactions such as “mood and behavior changes, anxiety, agitated, hostile, aggressive and hallucinations” to name a few.
Recall that Adam Lanza received the same diagnosis as our unidentified ten-year old. Is it possible that Dr. Fox chose a similar, or worse, drug “treatment” regimen for Adam Lanza? Who knows? The State of Connecticut apparently doesn’t want the public to know and is doing everything legally and legislatively possible to block access to Lanza’s mental health records.
After reading the list of mind-altering drugs prescribed to our ten-year old unidentified child, the State should be asking Dr. Fox some serious questions. And rather than spending so much time and effort trying to convince the people of Connecticut that increased mental health (which equates to increased drugging) is the answer to the tragedy at Sandy Hook, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to investigate the outrageous psychiatric drugging of the state’s children?
If Dr. Fox’s drug “treatment” regimen is indicative of the type of mental health being provided by the State of Connecticut, increasing services does not bode well for its children.
Will The Governor Include MedWatch Training To Proposed Mental Health Initiatives?
Sandy Hook Shooter Proves Need For Inclusion
In an apparent response to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, Connecticut Governor, Dannel P. Malloy, has announced increased funding in the state’s mental health budget. Why?
If shooter, Adam Lanza, had been a product of the state mental health system there may be some evidence to back up such broad changes, and this increased spending may make sense. But, to date, there is no evidence that Lanza received any state mental health assistance.
In fact, based on what little information has been made public about Lanza’s mental health treatment, it appears that, beyond school recommendations to the family, the father’s private insurance was used and the family did not depend on state sponsored benefits.
Of course, the last publically known mental health treatment Lanza received was from the Yale Child Study Center, which, oddly enough, provided information to investigators about an adverse drug event Lanza was experiencing from the prescribed antidepressant, Celexa.
According to the State Police investigation of the shooting, Yale Child Study Center Registered Nurse, Kathleen Koenig, prescribed Celexa to Lanza and was “immediately” contacted by Nancy Lanza, who reported that her son was “unable to raise his arm.”
Did Koenig recommend discontinuation of the antidepressant? No. In fact, Koenig told police investigators that she tried to “convince Nancy Lanza that the medication was not causing any purported symptoms which Adam might be experiencing.”
Koenig’s response seems questionable. First it is important to point out that Celexa has not been approved for use by children, so the prescription was written “off-label” when Adam was 15 years old. More importantly, though, the “serious side effects” include: “call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as: very stiff (rigid) muscles.”
To the layman, it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that Lanza, unable to lift his arm, may have been experiencing one of the serious side effects of the antidepressant. In fact, a quick perusal of the internet reveals many reports of similar complaints associated with Celexa.
Is it possible that Koenig was unaware of the specific side effects associated with Celexa? Did Koenig review the possible adverse side effects of Celexa before providing her medical advice?
Koenig further reports to investigators that “Nancy Lanza was not receptive to Koenig’s reasoning,” and that Nancy Lanza “missed at least one scheduled appointment…and failed to schedule subsequent appointments for Lanza.”
Again, given Koenig’s response to Nancy Lanza regarding what very likely could be a serious adverse reaction to the psychiatric drug, is it so tough to understand why Nancy Lanza decided to end her son’s relationship with the Yale Child Study Center?”
It is interesting to note, however, that investigators do not mention whether Koenig reported this adverse drug event to the Food and Drug Administration’s MedWatch System. Nor do investigators mention whether Koenig advised Nancy Lanza that she could report the adverse event to the FDA herself.
Ablechild believes that the MedWatch System is an important, no-cost, tool that is necessary for the FDA to make safety recommendations and post warnings to consumers about drugs. In an effort to provide consumers with this important information, Ablechild is lobbying State lawmakers in an effort to have information about the MedWatch System made part of any new mental health training among educators and mental health care workers.
Given that the Yale Child Study Center receives state mental health funding, it seems appropriate that Governor Malloy might consider it important for organizations, such as the Yale Child Study Center, be made aware of the availability to consumers about the MedWatch System.
It’s only speculation, but it would appear that Nancy Lanza’s reporting of the adverse drug event her son was experiencing was a perfect time for an organization, such as Yale Child Study Center, to take advantage of the FDA’s MedWatch System.