Missouri officials investigate transgender youth clinic

Feb 9, 2023, 8:46 PM | Updated: Feb 10, 2023, 3:30 pm
FILE - Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey speaks to reporters after taking the oath of office ...

FILE - Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey speaks to reporters after taking the oath of office in Jefferson City, Mo., on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and the state's Republican attorney general are investigating whistleblower complaints against a transgender health center for children, the officials announced Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023 (AP Photo/David A. Lieb, File)

(AP Photo/David A. Lieb, File)

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey on Friday called for doctors to pause giving puberty blockers and hormones to new patients at a transgender youth clinic. The call comes a day after he announced an investigation into claims that the facility rushed to give children gender-affirming care without informed consent.

Bailey publicly announced an investigation of Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital on Thursday after he said a whistleblower went public with allegations against the clinic.

The state Social Services Department, state licensing agency, Republican U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley and Washington University also are investigating.

Former case manager Jamie Reed claimed in an affidavit claimed that the center mainly provides gender-affirming care and does little to address mental health issues that patients also faced.

Reed worked at the clinic from 2018 through November 2022. In a post published Thursday by The Free Press, Reed described herself as a 42-year-old queer woman who is “politically to the left of Bernie Sanders.” She said she’s married to a transgender man.

In her affidavit, Reed claimed one minor treated at the center received a mastectomy and months later wanted the procedure to be undone. She said one doctor prescribed a medication to enlarge breasts that also caused liver damage.

Reed said she saw “healthcare providers lie to the public and to parents of patients about the treatment, or lack of treatment, and the effects of treatment provided to children.”

“I witnessed staff at the center provide puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to children without complete informed parental consent and without an appropriate or accurate assessment of the needs of the child,” Reed wrote. “I witnessed children experience shocking injuries from the medication the center prescribed.”

Missouri Division of Professional Registration Director Sheila Solon said in a statement that licensing boards will “take any necessary action against the licenses of Missouri professionals in violation of the boards’ statutory and regulatory authority to ensure health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Missouri.” Solon previously served as a Republican state representative.

Reed also claimed that physicians often referred patients to on-site therapists who would recommend gender-affirming treatments to children after spending one or two hours with them. She said doctors would “bully” parents into giving permission for treatment by saying, “You can either have a living son or a dead daughter.”

Studies have found some children and teens resort to self-mutilation to try to change their anatomy. And research has shown that transgender youth and adults are prone to stress, depression and suicidal behavior when forced to live as the sex they were assigned at birth.

Reed also alleged that the center billed some treatments to the federal Medicaid health care program.

“I took the job because I support trans rights and firmly believed I would be able to provide good care for children at the Center who are appropriate candidates to be receiving medical transition,” Reed wrote in the affidavit. “Instead, I witnessed the Center cause permanent harm to many of the patients.”

Missouri LGBTQ advocacy group PROMO spokesman Robert Fischer in a statement said the organization has heard “dozens upon dozens of positive personal stories from transgender and gender non-conforming youth and families about the ethic of care they’ve received” at the center.

“We’ve also sat in rooms with over 30 parents who have shared stories about how their children thrived when they received interdisciplinary, holistic care from a team of providers at the Center,” Fischer said. “We have no insight into these allegations and accusations from one person.”

Transgender medical treatment for children and teens is increasingly under attack in many states, labeled child abuse and subject to criminalizing bans. But it has been available in the United States for more than a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations.

Many clinics use treatment plans pioneered in Amsterdam 30 years ago, according to a recent review in the British Psych Bulletin. Since 2005, the number of youth referred to gender clinics has increased as much as tenfold in the U.S., U.K, Canada and Finland, the review said.

Several Missouri lawmakers this year filed bills to ban gender-affirming treatment for transgender youth, and Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden said that’s a priority for Senate Republicans.

Bailey in a statement called the allegations against the center “disturbing.”

“We take this evidence seriously and are thoroughly investigating to make sure children are not harmed by individuals who may be more concerned with a radical social agenda than the health of children,” Bailey said.

Bailey has been outspoken on social issues since he took office in January. Republican Gov. Mike Parson appointed Bailey, the former top lawyer for the Governor’s Office, to replace now-U.S. Sen. Eric Schmitt as the state attorney general.

During his roughly one month in office so far, Bailey has called on school boards to adopt policies against children attending drag shows and warned CVS and Walgreens not to sell abortion medications.

Bailey last month officially launched his campaign for attorney general in 2024.

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Missouri officials investigate transgender youth clinic