National Center for Youth Law


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Oversight of Foster Youth Psychotropic Drug Use Funded

California’s new state budget includes an ongoing increase of $1.7 million dollars for the foster care public health nursing program. This means that 2015 legislation sponsored by NCYL, Senate Bill 319, which allows for public health nurses to oversee and monitor the mental health and medication services for foster youth, can be staffed up across California counties. The funding will draw down a 75% federal match for a total of $6.8 million. These funds will add approximately 42 nurses who will serve up to 8,400 children each year.

Meanwhile, two other NCYL sponsored bills to address the overmedication of children in foster care, SB 1174 and SB 1291, have cleared the State Senate with bipartisan support, and will come before the Assembly Appropriations Committee in August.

SB 1174 would establish a process for the Medical Board of California to review and investigate psychotropic medication prescription patterns among California children. Specifically, this bill enables the Medical Board of California to collect and analyze data, and, where warranted, conduct investigations of physicians who frequently prescribe outside recognized safety parameters for children. Treatments with the greatest risks to children’s health would be flagged and analyzed in a physician’s prescribing history.

While SB 1174 faced opposition from California Medical Association, our youth advocate Tisha Ortiz won over the Assembly policy committees with testimony and the bill received unanimous support.

SB 1291 would improve the ability of the State and counties to oversee mental health services for foster children and youth and to track outcomes related to those services. Specifically, this bill calls for annual county Foster Care Mental Health Plans that detail services, access, timeliness, and quality for children’s mental health needs.

Finally, SB 253, the remaining piece of legislation from NCYL’s 2015 legislative package, will become active again on August 1st. This bill aims to strengthen the court authorization process for administering psychotropic medications to foster children. SB 253 will go to the Assembly floor with the two bills in the 2016 package.