Brown Signs Bills To Reduce Rx Use Among Foster Children
On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a three-bill legislative package aimed at reducing the amount of psychiatric medication prescribed to children in California's foster care system, HealthyCal reports.
The legislation was proposed after a San Jose Mercury News investigation last year found that nearly 25% of children in the California foster care system have been prescribed psychiatric drugs (Guzik, HealthyCal, 10/7). According to the investigation, California foster care children are prescribed psychiatric drugs at a rate three times higher than the national average.
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.
Details of Legislative Package
The three bills signed by Brown are:
- 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, 9/25).
According to the Mercury News, Brown did not issue a signing comment.
Frank Mecca -- executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California, which issued a statement following Brown's signature -- said, "these bills give us the tools to make sure that kids don't just get pills but that they get high quality mental health treatment and that their well-being is closely monitored" (de Sá, San Jose Mercury News, 10/7).
In addition, Kathy Dresslar, director of Sacramento governmental affairs at the Children's Partnership, in a release said the legislative package "takes critical and significant steps forward in addressing ... over-prescription of psychotropics and antipsychotics to children and youth in foster care" (Children's Partnership release, 10/7).
Meanwhile, Will Lightbourne, director of the California Department of Social Services, said, "The approval of these bills helps the state and counties continue the practice changes underway to emphasize making psychosocial and trauma-based interventions available to children and youth, and avoid unnecessary use of chemical treatment."
Robert Holloway -- president of the California Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which had fought a related bill (SB 253) by state Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) -- said, "We hope that [the bills] work the way they're intended and that they improve care" (San Jose Mercury News, 10/7).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.