New Rules Aim To Tighten Rx Approval Process for Calif. Foster Kids
Newly proposed rules aim to tighten the courts' process for approving psychiatric drugs for children in California's foster care system, the San Jose Mercury News reports (de Sá, San Jose Mercury News, 12/16).
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, a Mercury News investigation last year found that the law has "done nothing" to lower such prescribing rates.
The investigation found nearly 25% of children in the California foster care system have been prescribed psychiatric drugs. According to the investigation, California foster care children are prescribed psychiatric drugs at a rate three times higher than the national average.
Details of Proposed Rules
According to the Mercury News, the rules were proposed in response to the legislative package signed in October.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Jerilyn Borack, who helped develop the proposed rules, said they aim to encourage judges to approve medications for a foster kid "as if this was their own child."
Specifically, the proposal would require juvenile court judges to investigate further into kids' mental health care. For example, judges would be required to consider:
- How recommended drugs might improve a child's mental health;
- Whether non-drug therapies have been tried; and
- Whether a child has taken medication willingly.
According to the Mercury News, children's input would play a larger part in courts' decisions. Borack said current forms to gather such information do not meet "the requirements of the new law."
The proposal is open for public comment on the Judicial Council of California's website until Jan. 22, 2016.
The proposal will undergo a series of public meetings, and a final decision will be made by April 15. If approved, the new rules would take effect in July 2016.
Mark Edelstein -- medical director of EMQ FamiliesFirst, a provider of mental health services for foster children -- said he agreed with most of the proposal's recommendations but raised concerns that it could increase the administrative burden on providers.
He said, "Child psychiatrists are already in short supply and requiring even more paperwork would give them less time to provide direct clinical care to foster youth, an already underserved population."
Meanwhile, Terry Friedman, a retired juvenile court judge who helped develop the 1999 legislation, said the proposed rules are "realistic, balanced and smart" (San Jose Mercury News, 12/16).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.