State Let Danger Linger After Foster Kid’s Drug Death

April 21, 2010

Note the date — July 17, 2006. Denis Maltez, a 67-pound wisp confined to a state-licensed group home, suffered the debilitating effects of his startling drug cocktail.  He was ferried over to Miami Children’s Hospital for emergency services.

Aug. 4, 2006. This time, the severely autistic boy was taken to Baptist Hospital, vomiting, dehydrated, bleeding from his gums.  Baptist doctors cite his regime of powerful prescription drugs.

by FRED GRIMM
Miami Herald

Oct. 26, 2006. A teacher reports sleeping, shaking, trembling. Suspects overmedication.

Jan. 9, 2007. According to the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the agency received an abuse hot-line report warning that Denis was neglected and overmedicated.

“Overmedicated”‘ became an understatement of fatal dimensions.

The child’s medical records indicate he had been addled with maximum adult dosages of Zyprexa and Seroquel. “Adult dosages” should have been an irrelevant term. Neither antipsychotic was approved for children.

Add a tranquilizer and a mood stabilizer to the concoction, and it’s little wonder that young Denis descended into such a dangerous zombie state during his stay at Miami’s Rainbow Ranch Group Home that he twice had to go to an ER.

None of the warnings mattered. Some caregivers may have been worried, but the psychotropics kept coming. On May 23, 2007, the kid quit breathing. He was 12.

LAYING THE BLAME

State officials, perhaps shamed by their complicity, moved quickly. A dossier was compiled against the three licensed Rainbow Ranch group homes, listing grotesque incidents in which disabled children in the homes were haphazardly fed, neglected, overmedicated and so under-supervised that the kids physically abused one another.

Just seven days after 12-year-old Denis’ death, the state convinced a judge to suspend Rainbow Ranch’s license.

The criminal record of the group home’s manager and co-owner, David J. Glatt, might not have been legally pertinent to this case, but a 2000 arrest and subsequent conviction for practicing medicine and dispensing drugs without a license probably added to the sense of urgency. Note the date of the suspension: June 1, 2007.

But physical abuse, a paucity of food or staff neglect didn’t kill Denis. The medical examiner’s findings indicated the kid likely died from the effects of psychotropic drugs, prescribed and prescribed again, despite the warnings and the mounting evidence that the child was descending into oblivion.

Yet the drug-happy doctor who authorized these fatal cocktails was able to continue to treat some 800 disabled and impoverished children, nominally under state care. Nor were state officials able to dissuade him from a propensity to load these kids up on dangerous psychotropics.

A MATTER OF TIME

The very state regulators who snuffed out Rainbow Ranch in just seven days handled Dr. Steven L. Kaplan with such deference, it was as if his patients mattered far less than the doctor’s reputation.

State regulators only decided to jettison Kaplan from the state Medicaid insurance program this week, the day after their inaction was publicized in a story by The Miami Herald’s Carol Marbin Miller.

Note the date. Kaplan’s termination becomes effective May 17, 2010. For a wisp of a child, the regulators were three years too late.

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