State audit confirms failure to protect foster youth at all levels of government

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sacramento, CA – After months of delay, the audit Senator Mike McGuire and the Senate Human Services Committee requested over a year ago, which focused on dangerous over-prescribing patterns in California’s foster care system, was released today. The document states that the state and counties have “failed to oversee the prescribing of psych meds in the foster care system” and it disclosed a system-wide failure regarding the tracking of psychotropic medication patterns, which has put the health and safety of thousands of California’s foster youth at risk.

Specifically, the report highlights dangerous weaknesses at all levels of government and discloses the fact the state and counties aren’t getting the permission – in many cases as dictated by law – to prescribe these mind-numbing medications, and medical professionals are prescribing powerful drugs despite the fact they aren’t authorized to do so. In addition, the auditor brings to light that the state is not using its ability to track the total number of youth on psych meds, what their dosage is, how long they have been medicated and the audit highlights that some counties are not even entering data on prescription patterns into the statewide database. This has created a dangerous data gap that is impacting the health and well-being of thousands of foster youth.

This is a significant concern because 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 called on the Department of Health Care Services to respond to the dangerous concerns outlined in the audit starting in 60 days.

“I am appalled by the findings of this audit as it shows the health and safety of thousands of foster youth have been put at risk for years,” Senator McGuire said. “Unfortunately, our worst fears have come true and this scathing report shows the State of California have been failing some of the most vulnerable youth in our society, foster kids.”

McGuire is the Chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, and author of SB 1174 which would also create a formal on-going process for the California Medical Board to review and confidentially investigate psychotropic medication prescription patterns outside the standard of care. The state auditor listed the need for evaluations of medical professionals and their prescribing patterns as a top area of reform.

Last year, Senator Mike McGuire and the Senate Human Services Committee requested the audit, through the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, to provide critical data to the Legislature in order to advance desperately needed data driven reforms. The audit was originally scheduled to be released in March but the document has been delayed twice over the past six months.

The second delay occurred at the last minute, when it was disclosed that the Department of Health Care Services didn’t release over 600 million records regarding prescription patterns throughout California, and so the audit was delayed again.

“California’s foster youth deserve better and it’s obvious from this audit that too many have known about this broken system for far too long,” Senator McGuire said. “We are committed to pushing the state to curb the excessive prescription of psychotropic medication that has taken hold and has had lifelong negative impacts on young lives,” Senator McGuire said.

The Senate Human Services Committee will hold a hearing this fall to receive a complete overview from the State Auditor’s Office who will describe the audit’s findings and the Department of Health Care Services and advocates of California’s foster youth will respond to the newly released document.

“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.

The auditor’s report can be found at: