Sacramento, CA – In less than a week’s time, Senator Mike McGuire’s bill to combat the over-prescription of powerful psychotropic medication among our state’s foster youth has been approved overwhelmingly by two Assembly committees on its way to creating a formal on-going process for the California Medical Board to review and confidentially investigate psychotropic medication prescription patterns outside the standard of care.
In addition to securing key support for the legislation this week, Senator McGuire is pushing back and crying foul at the failure of the California Department of Health Care Services for not releasing data to the State Auditor regarding prescription rates and methods for prescribing to foster children, as well as the nature of non-medication therapy that children were receiving. Two-thirds of the required data was not turned over by the department, causing a delay in the release of this important audit.
“It is unconscionable that the state is not acting in the best interest of these foster kids,” Senator Mike McGuire said. “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. We know that psychotropic and antipsychotic medication prescription rates in California’s foster care system have soared over the last 15 years by 1400 percent. Yet we have no system for evaluating the medical soundness of these prescribing rates.”
On Tuesday, Senator McGuire, along with colleagues in the state legislature including the entire Senate Human Services Committee, sent a letter to California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Diana Dooley calling on the department to address the inefficiencies and investigate why the data was not turned over.
“It is inexcusable that the Department did not release the data needed to make appropriate policy decisions about the way our foster children are prescribed psychotropic medications,” the letter stated. A copy of the letter to Secretary Dooley is attached along with a letter submitted to the DHCS from the State Auditor’s Office.
Last year, Senator McGuire, as Chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, held two hearings on over-prescription of psychotropic medication among foster youth and heard first-hand the devastating and potentially life-long impacts this practice has had on countless foster youth in California. The two measures, SB 1174 and the audit, were brought forward out of concern for these children.
Nearly one in four teens in foster care are prescribed psychotropic medication, and 6 in 10 adolescent foster youth on psychotropic medications are prescribed antipsychotics, the strongest class of drugs. Teens in foster care are 3 ½ times more likely to be prescribed psychotropic medication than their peers who are not in foster care.
“It is simple, without data, the medical board and the auditor’s office cannot perform their mandated duties. 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.
SB 1174 will be heard in Assembly Appropriations Committee before heading to the Assembly floor for a vote.