Success: Psychotropic Drug Misuse Banned in California’s Foster Homes

Drugs_ErinDeMay

Target: Governor Jerry Brown

Goal: Applaud the law to stop overprescribing psychotropic medications in foster homes.

Foster children and child welfare advocates and petitioners have scored success in California after Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that will limit the use of psychotropic drugs in foster homes. Psychotropic medication is intended for those who suffer severe mental illness but has been rampantly used to drug and numb foster children who’ve experienced trauma, instead of providing them with proper counseling. The abuse of psychotropic medication is three times higher in the foster care system than the national average. This has led to devastating long-term effects on the youths’ mental and physical health. The new California law is a breakthrough in dealing with this unfortunate issue.

The legislation will enforce tougher guidelines for doctors who prescribe psychotropic drugs. The guidelines include offering non-drug therapy alternatives and keeping dosages to a minimum. It also gives preference to medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whereas previously medications administered weren’t always FDA approved. The synchronous use of two or more drugs has been prohibited and doctors are encouraged to wean children off the drugs altogether.

Public health nurses can now access the medical records of foster care youth to assess which clients have a heavy reliance on the psychotropic drugs and cut back their intake. Although this should have always been the case, the new standards state, “Psychotropic medications should not be used for the purpose of discipline or chemical restraint, except as acutely necessary in true psychiatric emergencies.” Training and oversight is also being implemented to the child welfare workers to prevent abuse.

Foster care officials have become too accustomed to using drugs as a pseudo quick fix to calming children down. This decades-long practice has devastated children who have no family to look after them and are at the will of the state. The intake of psychotropic drugs result in mood swings and the long-term effects include weight gain, lethargy, lack of focus, increased risk of suicide and a shrinking brain.

The new law will hold doctors and foster care administrators accountable for providing proper treatment to these vulnerable children, answering the cries of advocates who’ve long been seeking reform. Applaud Governor Jerry Brown for signing a better life for foster children into law.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Governor Brown,

The recent legislation you signed into law regarding the use of psychotropic medications in foster homes is a relief and victory to California’s foster children and their advocates. The misuse of these drugs poisons vulnerable children and has long-term effects. Foster youth have been neglected and mistreated for too long and it was necessary for someone in government to show them that the state is paying attention and cares about their well-being.

Running facilities that were established to care for the needs and safety of children is an important responsibility that requires oversight and accountability. The foster care system failed their clients by administering them drugs intended for patients with severe mental illness. I applaud you for recognizing the cruelty that results from the misuse of these drugs and for doing something about it.

Your action will hopefully lead an example for other states to follow, which would improve the lives of foster youth across the nation. Thank you for signing legislation to stop the over-prescription of psychotropic medications.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Erin DeMay

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