CSAC Bulletin Article

Foster Youth Medication Subject of Lengthy Hearing

September 29, 2016

The Senate Human Services Committee and the Senate Budget Subcommittee #3 on Health and Human Services conducted a lengthy joint hearing on the misuse of psychotropic medications for foster youth on Monday. The Committees heard from a wide range of speakers to address the complicated issue, including State Auditor Elaine Howle, who provided the committee with an overview of the findings of the recently released audit report, which concluded that both the state and counties failed to provide adequate oversight of the prescribing of psychotropic medications to foster youth.

The Committees then heard from speakers representing state and county agencies involved in the care of foster youth. Director Will Lightbourne, Department of Social Services, and Director Jennifer Kent, Department of Health Care Services, first addressed the issue of oversight from each state department’s perspective. County representatives from both the child welfare and behavioral health areas also provided their perspectives, including:

· Frank Mecca, Executive Director, County Welfare Directors Association

· Barry Zimmerman, Director, Ventura County Human Services Agency

· Mary Adèr, Deputy Director, County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California

· Dr. William Arroyo, Medical Director, Children’s System of Care, Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.

An additional panel consisting of former foster youth and advocates for foster youth provided a statewide perspective on the issue and raised their concerns with the current oversight system. Both panels received questions from the committee on the fragmentation of oversight of the use of psychotropic medications with foster youth as well as the limitations of the available data. Additionally, the Committees and some of the speakers introduced the issue of limited availability of providers and an overall concern about the availability of mental health care for foster youth.

After a response from Directors Lightbourne and Kent, the Committees received public comment from concerned stakeholders. Senate Human Services Committee Chair Mike McGuire closed by stating the importance of tracking data, the appropriateness of combining drugs with trauma and other therapies, and the necessity of breaking down walls to work together on this issue. The Committees plan to continue engaging on the issue of the overuse of psychotropic medications for foster youth, including scheduling a follow-up hearing in early 2017 for a status update.

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