Legislation to Protect Foster Youth Moves to the Governor’s Desk

August 24, 2016

(SACRAMENTO, CA)  - Legislation to create a more rigorous process when prescribing potentially harmful psychotropic drugs to foster children, Senate Bill (SB) 253, by Senator Bill Monning (D-Carmel) moved to the Governor’s desk today.

“SB 253 represents an important step in establishing increased scrutiny of the harmful medications prescribed to foster children,” Senator Monning said.  “The bill provides the courts with key factors to consider when making the potentially life-changing medical decision to prescribe psychotropic drugs to a foster child.  It is our obligation to protect the wellbeing of foster youth in California and given the serious risks associated with the administration of these powerful drugs, there needs to be thoughtful guidelines prior to authorization.” 

Current law provides no guidance to the courts as to how to grant or deny an application for the use of psychotropic medication by foster children.  SB 253 mandates the use of health care standards by the courts when authorizing the use of psychotropic medication by foster children.  Specifically:  

  • Judges must find several specific facts before making a determination to authorize the use of psychotropic medications by foster children.  Their decisions to prescribe psychotropic drugs must be based on clear and convincing evidence.
  • In the most extreme cases, judges must receive a second opinion before prescribing psychotropic drugs, such as prescriptions to foster children ages 0-5 or the use of multiple antipsychotics.
  • Lab tests and other screenings must be ordered as a prerequisite for the authorization of psychotropic drugs, as well as follow up monitoring of the effects of the medication to ensure the safety of the child.

Nearly one in four children placed in foster care receives powerful psychotropic drugs.  Of all children taking psychotropic medications in California, 52% are given antipsychotics, which have risk factors that can lead to life-long disabilities, such as tremors, obesity, and diabetes.  Forty-eight percent of foster children are given antidepressants that have an FDA black box label warning for use by children.

 

Contact: Elizabeth Stitt (916) 651-4017