Order Granting Final Approval of Class Action Settlement

 

This matter came before the Court on the Parties’ Joint Motion for Final Approval of Class Action Settlement (Doc. 304). Having preliminarily approved the settlement agreement of the parties (the “Settlement Agreement”), reviewed the Report and Recommendation by the Honorable Lajuana M. Counts, United States Magistrate Judge, who presided over a fairness hearing on November 20, 2019 (Doc. 316), and considered all relevant factors, the Court hereby orders as follows:

  1. The Settlement Agreement is “fair, reasonable, and adequate,” and meets all other requirements of the Federal Rules;
  2. The Settlement Agreement is finally approved and entered; and
  3. The Court retains jurisdiction for purposes of enforcing the terms as set forth in the Settlement Agreement. The Court incorporates within this order the terms of the Settlement Agreement and has executed the Settlement Agreement indicating the Court’s final approval.

I. What Is This Class Action Lawsuit?

This lawsuit was filed on June 12, 2017, by several children on behalf of a class of all children who are or will be prescribed or administered one or more psychotropic medications while in state care (together they are called the “Plaintiffs” or the “Class”). The lawsuit was brought against the Director of the Missouri Department of Social Services (“DSS”) and the Director of the Children’s Division (“CD”) of DSS, in their official capacities (together they are called the “Defendants”). Plaintiffs’ lawsuit seeks changes in how Defendants manage psychotropic medications for children in CD custody.  The lawsuit does not seek money damages.

Plaintiffs and Defendants negotiated a proposed class action settlement that was set forth in a written agreement (called “the Settlement Agreement”). The parties asked the federal district court judge assigned to the case to approve the Settlement Agreement. On December 5, 2019 the Court granted final approval of the Settlement Agreement.

A general summary of the topics addressed by the Settlement Agreement is set forth below in Section II. The Settlement Agreement does not constitute an admission by Defendants of any liability concerning any of the claims and allegations in the Complaint. To review or obtain a copy of the Settlement Agreement, please follow the instructions below or click on the link in the “Alerts & Notices” box at Defendants’ website, www.dss.mo.gov.

II. What Does the Settlement Agreement Do?

The Settlement Agreement resolves this case without a trial. Under the Settlement Agreement, CD and DSS will implement (or continue to implement) certain policies or procedures concerning the oversight of the administration of psychotropic medications to children in the Missouri foster care system. Psychotropic medications include drugs like antipsychotics, antidepressants, and lithium, among others. Progress in implementing these policies and procedures will be evaluated and reported on by an independent data validator who will review and validate data with respect to identified benchmarks. The policies and procedures concerning psychotropic medications that have been or will be implemented in Missouri relate to, among other things: (1) training for case management staff and foster care providers; (2) medication monitoring; (3) medical and mental health records; (4) secondary reviews of certain types of prescriptions; (5) informed consent and assent; (6) a medication advisory committee; and (7) excessive dosage guidelines.  The lawsuit does not involve a request for money damages, so the Settlement Agreement does not provide for the payment of any damages.

III. How Can I Receive More Information or Ask Questions?

For a copy of the Settlement Agreement, go to the Children’s Rights website at https://www.childrensrights.org/, or click on the link in the "Alerts & Notices" box at Defendants’ website, www.dss.mo.gov. If you do not have access to a computer, please call Class Counsel at (212) 683-2210 and ask Samantha Bartosz for a copy of the "Missouri Psychotropic Medications Federal Court Settlement." For any other questions, please contact Class Counsel at sbartosz@childrensrights.org or john.ammann@slu.edu

**PLEASE DO NOT CALL JUDGE NANETTE K. LAUGHREY OR THE CLERK OF THE COURT.**

They will not be able to answer your questions about the class action lawsuit or the Settlement Agreement. You may, however, review any non-sealed materials that have been filed with the Court in this case by going to the Office of the Clerk of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri at the Charles Evans Whittaker U.S. Courthouse, 400 East 9th Street, Kansas City, MO 64106. The Clerk’s Office is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. excluding holidays. To review materials in the public record in this case, refer to Case No. 2:17-cv-04102-NKL.