Karen de Sá
July 11, 2015

Four bills would give greater power and set new requirements for legal staff and social service personnel to prevent the inappropriate administration of psychotropic medication.

“Right now it’s just a river of meds and we’re building a dam,” said Anna Johnson, a policy analyst with the National Center for Youth Law. She says the legislation is critical because “the medical community is not policing themselves and we don’t have anyone checking their practices on behalf of foster children.”

SB 238 would create certification, standards, and educational programs for judges, court-appointed lawyers, foster parents, social workers, and group home staff and training about psychotropic medication, trauma, and behavioral health.

SB 253 would bolster court oversight in cases where psychotropic medication is used by ensuring that health exams take place and monitoring the situation. A second, independent opinion would be required for children age 5 or younger, or for high dosages or multiple medications are administered. Teens would be able to appeal, and judges would determine decide whether drugs were “being used as punishment,” or “for the convenience of staff”.

SB 319 would add to the responsibilities of public health nurses of foster youth to include monitoring of lab tests, medical records, and case review of children receiving psychotropic medication. Counties will gain 38 nurses to bring the nurse-to-patient ratio to 1:200.

SB 484 would required the Department of Social Services to investigate group homes that are suspected to inappropriately administer psychotropic medication, and monitor plans to correct these policies.

California foster children would be better protected from overprescribing physicians, under proposed new laws now in the Assembly
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Organizations mentioned/involved: National Center for Youth Law (NCYL)