A fight over the rights of parents to medicate — or not medicate — their children is taking center stage in the battle over revamping Child Protective Services.
Sen. Mark Anderson, RMesa, is pushing a provision to spell out in law it is not abuse or neglect for a parent to refuse to put a child on psychiatric medication. That would preclude CPS from taking the child from a home.
Anderson said CPS has tried to intervene solely because a parent does not give the child certain drugs.
He cited the trend to put children labeled hyperactive or with attention-deficit disorder on Ritalin and other drugs. Anderson said a parent who believes there are better alternatives should not have to fear having the state decide they are unfit.
The proposal is drawing fire from Sen. Robert Cannell, R-Yuma, who is a pediatrician. Cannell said the provision would needlessly endanger children who suffer from ailments far more serious, such as epilepsy and bipolar affective disorder.
The debate erupted Monday as the Senate Committee on Family Services began reviewing legislation to alter the mission and powers of Child Protective Services. Anderson said the drugging of children, especially with Ritalin, "has been a problem for years."
"Most of the kids who committed these Columbine-type crimes were kids on those kids of drugs," he said, citing the 1999 shooting at a Colorado high school in which two teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before committing suicide.
But Anderson said parents have been threatened with CPS intervention — and potential charges of abuse if they do not put their children on certain drugs.
Cannell said Ritalin is not the issue. He said he fears that parents will take their children off drugs that they need to survive.
He said the list of what are considered psychiatric drugs that would be covered by the proposal includes anticonvulsants, which are used to treat seizures.
He also said that some children who are taking medicine to deal with bipolar affective disorder would be at physical risk if they abruptly stop taking the drugs.
Sen. Peter Rios, DDudleyville, is seeking to craft a compromise: Keep CPS out of the picture unless withholding a medication "causes substantial risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare."
Cannell said the issue is being pushed largely by members of the Church of Scientology who "dislike any kind of psychiatry or psychology."
Anderson, however, said the issue is more basic.