Governor Signs Beall's Foster Care Bills to Restrict Over Prescribing of Drugs

October 06, 2015

SACRAMENTO – Senator Jim Beall’s bills to ramp up the oversight of powerful psychotropic drugs dispensed to youths in foster care were ratified today by the Governor.

Senate Bills 319 and 484 are aimed at reducing the over reliance of mind-altering medications to control the behaviors of foster youth. About 25 percent of children in the state’s foster care system are given powerful drugs that can have long-lasting side effects such as depression and obesity. Over half of the children in foster care group homes are administered the drugs.

“I hope the approval of this legislation tells our foster care youth that we love them, that their lives matter to all of us, and that we care deeply about their future,’’ Beall said. “The system is not perfect but California will keep working to perfect it.’’

Under SB 319, counties with public health nurses will have the authority to monitor the use of psychotropic drugs given to foster care children. The public health nurses will be allowed to obtain a foster youth’s medication records from a medical provider or social worker, giving an additional layer of oversight.

Senate Bill 484 increases reporting requirements to detect group homes that rely on psychotropic drugs as the main or only method of treatment. The bill calls for Department of Social Services, the Department of Health Care, and stakeholders to establish a methodology to identify group homes that have disproportionately high levels of psychotropic drug medication.

The bills were triggered by a San Jose Mercury News investigation that raised questions about the over medication of foster youth and whether the drugs had replaced other effective therapies and non-drug treatments.

Beall, who authored AB 12, landmark legislation that extended benefits to eligible foster youth beyond age 18 to 21, was one of three senators who introduced bills to curb the indiscriminate administration of mind-controlling drugs to foster children.

Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, introduced SB 238 to improve communication between child welfare services and social workers to prevent the over-drugging of foster youth. Beall was a joint co-author of the bill, which was also signed today by Governor Brown.

Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, introduced SB 253 that would have increased court oversight of psychotropic drugs administered to foster youth.