Calif. Lawmakers Plan To Stem Overuse of Psychiatric Drugs
Several California lawmakers this year plan to introduce legislation to curb the overuse of psychiatric drugs among children in the state's foster care system, San Jose Mercury News/Inside Bay Area reports (de Sá, San Jose Mercury News/Inside Bay Area, 2/1).
The push for more regulation comes after a Mercury News investigation last year 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, 9/19/14).
Details of Planned Legislation
Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said the state Senate "will be investigating the plight of the adolescents highlighted in [the investigation], as well as foster children generally."
According to Mercury News/Inside Bay Area, new legislation being drafted could aim to:
- Ensure that children, caregivers, lawyers and judges receive proper information about psychotropic drugs and their side effects;
- Ensure children who are prescribed medication are monitored to catch negative side effects;
- Empower public health nurses to better coordinate the proper use of psychotropic drugs;
- Give foster children the right to alternative treatment methods and a second medical opinion when potentially dangerous drugs or high drug dosages are prescribed;
- Identify group homes that are prone to overmedication; and
- Require that caregivers receive training to better understand the risks and benefits of medications and how to care for children who display difficult behavior.
Other lawmakers who have submitted preliminary language for related bills include:
- Assembly member David Chiu (D-San Francisco);
- State Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles); and
- State Sen. Jim Beal (D-San Jose).
Chiu said, "For me, the steady increase in the use of psychotropic medications for our foster youth has been incredibly alarming, and the lack of standards to authorize the use of medications appears to be irresponsible at the least, and potentially life-threatening at the worst" (San Jose Mercury News/Inside Bay Area, 2/1).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.