Senator McGuire’s Psych Med Bill Advances

McGuire sounds off on curious delay and data dump for audit

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sacramento, CA – Senator Mike McGuire, Chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, is continuing his quest to fix a devastating problem that has impacted thousands of California’s foster youth for over a decade – the over-prescription of powerful psychotropic medication. 

Following hearings last year on the misuse of psychotropic medication in foster care, Senator McGuire’s legislation to ensure the state has the ability to monitor the administration of these drugs among foster youth was approved yesterday in the Assembly Health Committee.

SB 1174 establishes a formal, on-going process for the California Medical Board to responsively review and confidentially investigate psychotropic medication prescription patterns outside the standard of care.

“This legislation stems from a culture that has developed in our State’s foster care system where excessive prescription of psychotropic medication has taken hold and it has lifelong negative impacts on young lives,” Senator McGuire said. “Over the past fifteen years, the rate of foster youth prescribed psychotropic medication has increased 1,400 percent. The state must advance data driven protections which will ensure outlier prescribers are held accountable.”

In 2014-2015, over 8,000 complaints were advanced to California’s Medical Board about over-prescribing of medications, but not one complaint came from the California foster care system.

While the Federal Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act of 2011 requires each state to oversee and monitor the use of psychotropic medications, California currently has no requirements to identify those who are over-prescribing medication to foster youth. The state has no system for evaluating the medical soundness of high rates of prescribing and no way to measure the efficacy of these practices. 

McGuire’s bill will change this by establishing a formal, on-going process for the California Medical Board to responsively review and confidentially investigate psychotropic medication prescription patterns outside the standard of care thereby alleviating the alarming data disparity between private and foster care system complaint rates.

It is simple, without data, the medical board cannot perform their mandated oversight duty. SB 1174 will enable California to implement what is already standard oversight practice in Washington, Illinois and Ohio. These state initiatives have shown a 25 percent decrease in dangerous prescribing practices and have improved the overall prescription frequency for medically acceptable reasons. 

Nearly 1 in 4 California foster teens are prescribed psychotropic drugs; of those, nearly 60 percent were prescribed an anti-psychotic – this is the most powerful drug class that is susceptible to damaging side effects. Thirty-six percent are prescribed multiple medications. 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.

“This is unacceptable given that it is the state’s responsibility, as the guardian of these children, to monitor the administration of these drugs and to ensure the health and well-being of foster children. Our state’s foster youth deserve better, including access to proactive and sustained mental health services. When medication does become necessary, we need to create a better system that includes assessment and accountability measures,” Senator McGuire said. 

Another accountability measure that McGuire and the Senate Human Services Committee advanced last year and which was scheduled to move forward this week was an audit of prescribing patterns of psychotropic prescriptions among foster youth. The audit took an unexpected and curious setback when it was disclosed – at the last minute – that the Department of Health Care Services didn’t release a significant block of data regarding prescription patterns throughout California.

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.

SB 1174 will be heard in Assembly Business & Professions Committee next Tuesday, June 28.