Beall's Watchdog Bills to Curb Overmedication of Foster Youth Sent to Governor

September 10, 2015

SACRAMENTO – Legislation by Senator Jim Beall to stop the indiscriminate use of potent psychotropic drugs given to foster care youth was approved by the Senate today. Senate Bills 319 and 484 will be sent to the Governor.

“We must never allow the state’s most traumatized children to be shackled with chemical restraints simply because it is the most expedient way to control their behavior,’’ Beall said.

“SB 319 and 484 will ensure powerful psychotropic drugs do not replace other effective and necessary treatments for children in foster youth group homes. Drugs should only be the final alternative after all other treatment options, such as therapy and counseling, are exhausted.’’

Senate Bill 319 grants public health nurses the authority to monitor the use of psychotropic drugs given to foster children in counties that have such nurse programs. The public nurses will be allowed to obtain a foster youth’s medication records from a medical provider or social worker, providing an independent set of eyes to oversee the administration of the drugs and raise warnings.

Senate Bill 484 would increase reporting requirements to flag group homes that rely on potent psychotropic drugs as the first-line or the only treatment. The bill calls for foster youth ombudspersons and stakeholders to establish a methodology to identify group homes with disproportionately high levels of psychotropic drug medication. Those homes flagged by the system will be required to submit corrective action plans within 60 days that will be monitored.

The bills are part of a package introduced by several other legislators following an investigation by the San Jose Mercury News that questioned the high use of powerful medications given to children in foster care group homes.

More than half of foster care children in group homes are sedated with potent medications, according to the National Center for Youth Law. This overreliance on drugs to control foster youth is a reflection of inadequate oversight, the organization said.