July 29, 2016
Tisha Ortiz, former foster youth, shares her personal experiences as a way to give light to the horrifying side effects of psychotropic drugs prescribed to foster youth and create change. According to Ortiz, many of the medications prescribed to foster youth have serious side effects like weight gain, tunnel vision, zombified feel, and increases the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat. She also speaks about the doctor’s indifference and the harsh punishing methods she was subject to when she refused to take the medication, “once I had all my belongings stripped from me down to only the clothes I wore each day,” she said.
As an advocate at NCYL, Ortiz has supported Senate Bill (SB) 1174 and 1291. SB 1174 is a prescriber-oversight bill that establishes a process for the Medical Board of California to review and investigate psychotropic medication prescription patterns among children in California. SB 1291 would improve the availability of mental health services for children in foster care. The Assembly Appropriations will hear both bills in August.
Bill Grimm, senior attorney on the psychotropic medications team at NCYL, “[Both bills] create additional safeguards for foster children who are given psychotropic medications beyond those the legislation created last year [and] fill in gaps in the checks and balances over the use of psychotropic drugs given to foster children that were not addressed during the last legislative session.”
According to Ortiz, at the foster youth and mental health hearings, experts sometimes refer to foster youth as “severely damaged,” “[for] former foster children, comments like this are very hurtful. I often acted out because adults wouldn’t listen when all I wanted was for someone to care about me and to love me like their kid; I just wanted to receive a simple hug.” Ortiz proposes therapeutic behavioral services and trauma-focused therapy instead of psychotropic drugs.
Organizations mentioned/involved: National Center for Youth Law (NCYL)