Calif. Senate Panel Advances Bills Targeting Foster System’s Rx Use
On Tuesday, the California Senate Human Services Committee unanimously approved a legislative package aimed at reducing the amount of psychiatric medication prescribed to children in the state's foster care system, the San Jose Mercury News reports (de Sá, San Jose Mercury News, 4/22).
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.
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, 4/13).
Details of Legislative Package
The legislative package to reform psychiatric drug use among foster youth includes four bills:
- 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 drug interactions (Gorn, California Healthline, 3/9);
- SB 253, by state Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), which would change the juvenile courts' process for authorizing psychotropic drugs by prohibiting such drugs from being authorized without prior medical examination and ongoing monitoring of the child (Monning website, April 2015);
- 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, 3/9).
Details of Hearing
On Tuesday, the state Senate Human Services Committee heard testimony from several stakeholders and advocates, including:
- Children formerly in the state foster care system;
- Public health nurses;
- Social workers; and
- Welfare directors.
During the hearing, individuals who formerly were in the foster care system recounted cases in which they:
- Were kicked out of treatment programs because they refused psychiatric medication that had negative side effects; and
- Had been prescribed up to five medications at a time.
Committee Chair Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) said that the panel hearing was just the start to reforming such practices in the state's foster care system.
He said that California must stop "drugging our kids." He added, "We have to take the tens of millions of dollars we are spending on psychotropic medications and put it into trauma care" (San Jose Mercury News, 4/22).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.