WSVN — When we first met Anthony he had been in and out of state institutions for three years labeled by doctors as mentally retarded, bi-polar and prescribed, seven powerful psychotropic drugs.
Hope Estrada: "The other day when he was Baker Acted and they restrained him he told me, mom, I want to kill myself, I don't want to live like this."
That was Hope and Anthony in October 2009. This is 9-year-old Anthony today.
Hope Estrada: "Doing a flip on the playground and hope clapping. They worked a miracle with him, they really have."
Six months ago, the state had told Hope Anthony was doomed. That she should give him up, but she refused to walk away from her son, and instead she asked us to help.
Hope Estrada: "I am serious Patrick had it not been for you and I am not kidding you, had it not been for you we would not be here today because no-one was listening to me. No one was hearing me."
Howard Finkelstein and I realized saving Anthony required an expert. The person capable of getting the state to listen to what he needed was Andrea Moore, a well respected child advocate.
Howard Finkelstein: "There is no doubt in my mind that Andrea and this program saved this boy's life."
Patrick Fraser: Andrea went thru Anthony's medical records and concluded the state psychiatrists had misdiagnosed him. She then got the 9-year-old moved from an institution in Palm Beach County to Florida Palms Academy, a boarding school for troubled kids right here in Broward County."
Hope Estrada: "He has made enormous progress. He's just a different child off medication."
Anthony has not had any psychiatric drugs for five months. Instead of pills, Florida Palms Academy used people to change Anthony's behavior.
People like Anthony's therapist, Michelle Thomas
Michelle Thomas: He trusts people when he came here it didn't seem like he trusted a single person. Didn't want to follow directions from anybody."
He didn't trust people because at the other facilities his mother says he was drugged and mistreated. Now, off the mind altering drugs he has remembered how to love learn and listen.
An amazing turnaround. Anthony is now facing a normal life. When a few months ago, his mother was convinced he would soon be dead.
Hope Estrada: "I think he would have been another statistic another Gabriel Meyers. I really, really do think so."
Gabriel Meyers was the 7-year-old who was prescribed mind altering drugs like Anthony like. Anthony he threatened to kill himself and then did. Anthony was on the same track.
Hope Estrada: "The pills were the problem it was making him psychotic."
The states doctors drugged Anthony because it was cheaper than trying to find out what caused his problems, but Anthony's good news is not great. He needs a few more weeks here to complete his therapy and finish the school year, but the state's agency for health care administration is saying time to move out.
Andrea Moore: "Iit's a managed care insurance company kind of model, and they are interested in the bottom line, they are not interested in what the child needs."
Give the state legislators credit they created a program like this to help kids like Anthony, but blame them because they aren't providing the money for kids like Anthony to finish the program.
Howard: "Every politician for the last 10 years pounds their chest, and says 'let's do it for the kids, let's do it for our children,' well, let's do it for our children, and if you want to save children, you've got to give them good treatment, not cheap treatment, and not cheap and wrong drugs."
The proper treatment Anthony got at Palms Academy made a difference. A 9-year-old now has a future.
Patrick "It saved Anthony?"
Andrea "I think so, his family thinks so and the people who work here think so."
Six months ago, he talked about killing himself. Now he talks about getting a puppy.
Anthony: "I want one of those dogs with the fur that stays little."
A little dog for a little boy saved from the drugs, saved from dying because of his mothers hope.