Assembly Approves Bills To Increase Oversight of Foster Kids’ Rx Use
On Tuesday, the Assembly unanimously approved a package of bills aimed at reducing the amount of psychiatric medication prescribed to children in California's foster care system, the San Jose Mercury News reports (de Sá, San Jose Mercury News, 9/8).
Last year, a Mercury News investigation found that children in the California foster care system are prescribed psychiatric drugs at a rate three times higher than the national average.
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, 9/3).
Details of Bill Package
The three bills passed by the Assembly this week were:
- SB 238, by state Sens. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Jim Beall (D-San Jose), which would require the state to provide more data on the number of children in foster care who are prescribed psychotropic drugs, along with other medications that might cause harmful interactions;
- SB 319, by Beall, which would establish a system for public health nurses to monitor and oversee anyone in foster care who is prescribed psychotropic medications; and
- SB 484, by Beall, which would establish treatment protocols and state oversight of psychotropic drugs in group-home settings (California Healthline, 9/3).
A related bill (SB 253) was pulled by its author, state Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), to smooth out some issues with the Brown administration. SB 253 would have prohibited juvenile courts from authorizing psychotropic drugs without prior medical examination and ongoing monitoring of the child (California Healthline, 9/8). Monning said he will reintroduce the measure in January 2016.
The three approved bills now head to the state Senate for a final vote before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who has until Oct. 11 to sign them.
In a statement, Assembly member David Chiu (D-San Francisco) -- who co-authored the bills -- said, "Today's actions by the Assembly to pass these bills that would provide much-needed oversight over the use of psychotropic drugs in the foster care system is a start in making sure our foster youth aren't being unnecessarily drugged" (San Jose Mercury News, 9/8).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.