Ritalin bill on the docket Associated Press MONTPELIER, Vt. -- Lawmakers have introduced a bill that could reduce the state's high use of Ritalin. Vermont ranks among the top states in the nation for per-capita use of the drug. The bill would stipulate that schools may not require students to take Ritalin or a similar behavior-modification drug as a condition of attending school . One of the three senators who introduced the bill said the proposal would call attention to what might be over-prescription of Ritalin. "I think we should be really concerned if we're No. 2 per-capita in writing prescriptions," said Sen. Richard Sears of Bennington County, who introduced the bill with fellow Democrats Nancy Chard and Peter Shumlin of Windham County
"Maybe physicians will take notice."
David Egner, a child psychologist from Rutland, said schools trying to address behavioral problems are over-medicating students and fostering an attitude that drugs are the answer to their problems. "You severely sedate them and use a drug that will make students, quote, manageable," Egner said. "It's teaching the kid that you can't function unless you're drugged." There is no state law addressing what schools may or may not say to parents about such drugs, said Bill Reedy, a lawyer for the Vermont Department of Education
While there apparently aren't many instances of schools' forcing parents to agree to the use of Ritalin, legislation is needed to let parents know they have the final say, the bill's supporters contend. Egner believes a youth who died of a heroin overdose in Rutland last year at age 17 began his short life of drug abuse when he was prescribed Ritalin as a hard-to-handle 12-year-old
. That boy was Shawn Farnsworth. His mother, Connie Forrest of Pittsford, doesn't know if Ritalin, a stimulant the federal Drug Enforcement Administration calls psychologically addicting, led to her son's drug problem. She supports any bill that might limit its use. "I think we need to stop putting our kids on medication before we find out what's wrong with them," Forrest said.Other states have laws addressing Ritalin, commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Connecticut and Minnesota enacted laws last year stipulating that parents can decide whether their children should be given drugs to control their behavior. Sears said the bill he helped introduce would make clear that schools may not require Ritalin or a similar drug.
The bill would allow medication to be required if a health inspector determines drugs are required "without delay due to risk to the child's life or health."
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