National Center for Youth Law

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Monitoring Group Homes for Excessive Use of Psychotropic Medication
SB 484

More than half of California foster children in group homes are sedated with powerful chemical restraints. Inadequate oversight encourages over-reliance on drugs to control California’s most traumatized children. This legislation establishes appropriate treatment protocols and oversight.

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Overview

More than half of the children in California’s institutions for foster children (“group homes”) are medicated with powerful drugs. Resistance to taking the drugs can be, and is, punished by expulsion from the facility. The most problematic of the medications are the “antipsychotic” drugs designed to suppress the most uncontrollable behavior of schizophrenics. As a witness testified in a 2015 Congressional hearing, “these drugs are too often misused as ‘chemical straitjackets.’ This is a haphazard attempt to simply control and suppress undesirable behavior, rather than treat, nurture and develop these treasured young people.”

The 1000+ group homes throughout California vary widely in size, staffing and quality of care. Some are accredited, but many are not. In 2011 the state’s Foster Care Ombudsman rated more than a third of the homes “unsatisfactory.”

Causes of overmedication include:

  • Poorly trained staff Sedated children allow for reduced staffing ratios
  • Lack of therapeutic intervention alternatives
  • Energetic promotion by manufacturers Lack of state oversight
 This bill:
  1. Requires identification of group homes in which utilization of psychotropic medications suggests they are being used as chemical restraints
  2. Requires inspection of facilities administering psychotropic medications above the average of all group homes, the submission of a corrective action plan within sixty days, and departmental monitoring of plan implementation.
  3. Sets the goal of reducing the use of psychotropic medications in group homes 25% by the end of 2016 and convening all stakeholders to participate in the development of performance standards and outcome measures for reducing the use of psychotropic medications in group homes.

Documents

SB 484 Final Text

SB 484 Fact Sheet

Youthlaw News Articles