Analysis Finds More Cases of Psychiatric Drugs Given to Children
About 1,000 more children in the Los Angeles County foster care and juvenile delinquency systems have been given psychiatric drugs than previously reported, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of data obtained through a public information request, the AP/Sacramento Bee reports (AP/Sacramento Bee, 2/18).
Last year, a San Jose Mercury News investigation found that children in the California foster care system are prescribed psychiatric drugs at a rate that is three times higher than children nationwide.
Specifically, the investigation found that nearly 25% of California children in foster care have been prescribed psychiatric drugs, including:
- Mood stabilizers; and
In 1999, state lawmakers passed legislation requiring juvenile courts to approve psychiatric drug prescriptions for foster youth and review the decisions every 180 days.
However, the investigation found that the law has "done nothing" to lower such prescribing rates (California Healthline, 2/2).
Findings of Analysis
According to the Times, in 2013, there were 2,300 previously acknowledged cases of psychiatric drugs being prescribed to children in the foster care and juvenile delinquency programs.
However, an analysis of social worker notes and billing records for Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, found that the Los Angeles County's reporting failed to account for nearly one-third of cases of children who were on such medications. Specifically, the analysis found an additional:
- 540 foster children who were given psychiatric drugs; and
- 516 children in the delinquency system who were given psychiatric drugs.
The Department of Children and Family Services had received reports about the extra cases last year but did not review or release the data until the information was requested by the Times (Therolf, Los Angeles Times, 2/16).
Meanwhile, a preliminary review found that a judge had not approved the newly revealed cases, according to the AP/Bee (AP/Sacramento Bee, 2/18).
Reaver Bingham, deputy chief of the Los Angeles County Probation Department, said, "We were just made aware that there may be a problem. We are researching whether the approval process for the medications was fully executed."
Leslie Starr Heimov, head of a court-appointed law firm that represents foster children said, "If there are group homes prescribing these medications without proper approval, we need to know that right now."
Meanwhile, DCFS Medical Director Charles Sophy -- who is responsible for oversight of medications among foster children -- said he was unaware of the extra cases until this month.
DCFS Director Philip Browning also said that he was unaware but noted that he learned department staffers had delayed working on the issue in hopes of reaching an agreement with state officials to gain access to current Medi-Cal billing records on an ongoing basis (Los Angeles Times, 2/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.