Sacramento, CA – Last year, Senator Mike McGuire and the Senate Human Services Committee requested an audit, through the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, to provide data on the prescribing patterns of psychotropics among foster youth. The audit called on the Department of Health Care Services to answer questions regarding prescription rates and methods for foster children.
Psychotropic and antipsychotic medication prescription rates in California’s foster care system have soared over the past 15 years – there has been a 1400 percent increase.
The audit was an accountability measure that should have been released earlier this spring. After an initial delay, the audit was again scheduled to be released this week. At the last minute, it was disclosed that the Department of Health Care Services didn’t release a significant block of data – over 50% -- regarding prescription patterns throughout California, and so the audit has been delayed again.
“This is an egregious and inappropriate delay in providing the critical data the Senate Human Services Committee requested last year. At best, this is an unacceptable error, at its worst, the Department is trying to hide the ball. This is, unfortunately, another example of the state not stepping up and protecting our foster youth and these types of moves erode the public’s trust,” Senator McGuire said.
The audit is now scheduled to be released in August.
But, this isn’t the first time that State Senators have requested data on the prescribing patters of mind-altering medication to our state’s foster youth, and not received an appropriate response. Last year, Senate President Pro Tempore de León, along with Senators Beall, McGuire, Mitchell and Monning, requested similar data from DHCS, specifically regarding physicians who have prescribed multiple psychotropic medications to foster youth. Not surprisingly, that data was not entirely accurate and DHCS even acknowledged that they made mistakes, however the department has yet to correct those data errors.
“It is unacceptable that the Department can’t get it together and release the data needed to make appropriate and safe changes to the way our foster children are prescribed life-altering drugs. Would this be the case if it wasn’t foster kids we were talking about? Teens in foster care are three and a half times more likely to be prescribed psych medication than their peers who are not in foster care and yet we have no system for evaluating the medical soundness of these soaring prescribing rates,” Senator McGuire said.
Senator McGuire is calling on California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Diana Dooley to discover exactly what has caused this delay, and to give the State Senate assurances that it will be fixed immediately.
“This has been an ongoing pattern when it comes to California’s foster youth and they deserve better,” Senator McGuire said.