October 2016 Newsletter
|October 2016 Newsletter|
Do you have a legislative idea or a state-related issue that you'd like to discuss? Meet me for a one-to-one conversation over a cup of coffee on Friday, Oct. 14, 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., at Roy's Station Coffee & Tea, 197 Jackson St. San Jose. The meetings are on a first-come, first-serve basis. The duration of the discussions are based on the number of people who want to speak with me.
IMPROVING THE LIVES OF FOSTER CARE YOUTH
There are about 79,000 children in California's foster care system. The process of monitoring each child's well-being is a difficult challenge that evolves from year-to-year, requiring close watch and constant refinement.
Nearly 12 percent of foster care children are prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs to control their behavior - medications that can carry life-long side effects, such as tremors, depression, obesity, or diabetes. Often the drugs were given in doses that exceeded accepted guidelines, a state auditor's report said. Many children did not receive follow-up visits or psychosocial services in conjunction with the administration of the drugs. Neither could the state precisely identify which children were prescribed the drugs.
As a legislator who has dedicated my career to helping foster care children, I have worked to halt the abhorrent practice of relying solely on powerful drugs to control the behavior of children who have experience severe trauma and place in the care of the state. The system is not helping them by drugging them into lethargy.
We must ensure that less invasive and safer available treatments are the first options for our children rather than a pill. The system must provide foster youth with the services that address their trauma instead of depending on drugs to mask their trauma.
The auditor cited the "state's fragmented oversight structure" as one cause for "weaknesses" in the monitoring of medications.
To address this hole in the system, I introduced Senate Bill 1291, a measure signed into law by the Governor last month. The bill improves the state's oversight by making sense out of the mental health data for foster youth that are collected by separate organizations, such as child welfare services and Medi-Cal billings. SB 1291 calls for sorting the data and consolidating it under a single review process for the state Department of Health Care Services to analyze foster care outcomes to identify deficiencies for correction.
SB 1291 follows two other bills on foster care that I got passed by the Legislature and approved by the Governor last year.
SB 319 allows counties with public health nurses to provide an additional layer of oversight on the issue of over-medication of foster children. The bill gives authority to public health nurses to access a foster youth's medication records to monitor the use of psychotropic drugs.
Under SB 484, a methodology to pinpoint group homes with high levels of psychotropic drug use would be created by the Department of Social Services, the Department of Health Care, and stakeholders.
My bills, together with others introduced by legislators in the Senate, are a step in the right direction to begin slowing the use of these mind-altering drugs as the treatment of first choice for the state's most vulnerable children.
BE PART OF THE SOLUTION TO POLLUTION!
On Saturday, Oct. 29, I will be co-sponsoring a clean-up and dumpster day in Martial Cottle Park neighborhood. Please join me to help beautify this area. And, remember to dress appropriately for the weather, wear sturdy clothing and footwear. Trash bags, trash sticks, gloves, and safety vests will be provided.
Neighborhood Clean-Up and Dumpster Day
The event is also being co-sponsored by San Jose City Councilman Johnny Khamis and Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman.