powerful Florida lawmaker has asked two state agencies to investigate a
Broward County psychiatrist who had been treating Gabriel Myers, a
7-year-old who hanged himself last month in the bathroom of his Margate
In separate letters to the Florida Board of Medicine and
the Agency for Health Care Administration, state Sen. Ronda R. Storms,
a Brandon Republican who chairs the Children, Families and Elder
Affairs Committee, requested investigations leading to a ``full
Gabriel died April 16 after locking himself in a
bathroom and hanging himself with a retractable shower cord. His death
spurred DCF Secretary George Sheldon to appoint a work group to study
the agency's use of psychiatric drugs, and its compliance with a 2005
reform law on the use of such medications on children in state care.
The work group will meet for the first time Thursday in Fort Lauderdale.
my view, this case raised serious concerns which demand attention and
answers,'' Storms wrote in a May 1 letter to AHCA Secretary Holly
Benson. Under the 2005 law, AHCA oversees a state program that monitors
the prescribing of mental-health drugs to children under Medicaid, the
state insurance program for the needy.
The program, called the
Medicaid Drug Therapy Management Program, tracks the prescribing of
mental-health drugs to children, and flags psychiatrists whose
practices veer outside generally accepted protocols.
practices that might draw attention: doctors with a high volume of
prescriptions of mental-health drugs or potentially dangerous
combinations of the medications. The program looks at the practices of
about 17,000 doctors who prescribe medications to children on Medicaid,
and about 300 to 450 end up red-flagged.
Dr. Sohail Punjwani, who
was treating Gabriel, had been red-flagged by the medication program
every quarter that the list was kept, one of the administrators told
The Miami Herald.
Punjwani did not return calls from The Miami Herald for a comment.
her letter to Benson, Storms asked what AHCA was doing to monitor the
activities of doctors whose prescribing practices were identified as
''What guidelines or repercussions for
red-flagged physicians are in place to prevent practices that result in
a loss of life?'' Storms wrote. ``What actions, legislative remedies or
otherwise, should be taken which would provide the citizens of our
state a greater level of protection?''
Spokespersons for both state agencies declined to discuss the requests by Storms.
Smith, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, which oversees
the Board of Medicine, said the agency does not comment on
investigations of doctors unless or until a finding of probable cause
has been made. ''If someone files a complaint,'' she said, ``that's how
we begin our disciplinary process.''
''It's very serious when we
get a head's-up from a legislator,'' Smith added. ``That would prompt
us to begin the disciplinary process.''
Punjwani has not been disciplined before by the Board of Medicine, Smith said.
Durden, a spokeswoman for AHCA, would only confirm that her agency
received Storms' letter and that the agency is reviewing it.