Funding Pulled From Bill To Increase Oversight of Foster Kids’ Rx Use
On Wednesday, the author of a bill (SB 319) aimed at reducing the amount of psychiatric medication prescribed to children in the state's foster care system removed all funding from the measure, the Contra Costa Times reports (Richman, Contra Costa Times, 8/19).
Last year, a San Jose 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, 6/4).
Details of Bill Change
SB 319, by state Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), would establish a system for public health nurses to monitor and oversee anyone in foster care who is prescribed psychotropic medications. The bill aimed to fund 38 additional nurses to enable counties to have at least one nurse per 200 foster care patients (Contra Costa Times, 8/19). The bill is part of a larger legislative package, which was introduced in response to the investigation (California Healthline, 6/4).
Earlier this month, the state Department of Finance said that SB 319 would cost $5 million this year and up to $10 million annually in the future, putting pressure on the state budget.
During an Assembly Appropriations Committee meeting this week, Beall cut all funding for the new nurse positions from the bill. Counties now would have to "opt in" to the program and pay for it themselves if they want additional nurse oversight of medications for children in foster care.
Beall said, "Appropriations committees are usually the highest hurdle you have to jump over ... We're going to get the bill on the governor's desk."
Beall predicted that the state's largest counties still will choose to pay for the additional oversight. He added that he will use his sway on the state Senate's Budget and Appropriations committees to revisit funding for nurse oversight of foster care prescribing in the future.
Advocates for children in the state's foster care system were disappointed with the decision to remove funding from the bill.
Anna Johnson -- a policy analyst at the Oakland-based National Center for Youth Law, which sponsored SB 319 -- said, "If you want monitoring to happen, you have to mandate it," adding that refusing to fund additional oversight will result in "a big risk that children will continue to not be monitored on these medications, whether they're medically necessary or not" (Contra Costa Times, 8/19).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.