National Center for Youth Law

NCYL in the news Press Releases

Senate Unanimously Approves Legislation to Curb Misuse of Psychotropic Medications on Foster Children


June 3, 2015 

Bill Grimm (510) 835-8098 x3016 cell: 925-451-8211
Anna Johnson (510) 835-8098 x3035 cell: 920-471-8177

Sacramento – The California State Senate has unanimously approved four bills – SB 238, SB 253, SB 319 and SB 484 – sponsored by the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) to address the dangerous overmedication of children in foster care with psychotropic drugs. These bills will strengthen the ability of judges, caregivers, child welfare workers, and other professionals to ensure safe and appropriate treatment, using therapeutic and trauma-informed health approaches, with the aim of reducing the inappropriate uses of psychotropic medications.

Specifically, the bills would:

  • Strengthen the court authorization process to require clear and convincing evidence for any prescription and evidence that other treatments have been attempted prior to medications;
  • Provide for training, data collection, and systems to red-flag questionable practices;
  • Increase the oversight role of public health nurses to ensure that vital signs are monitored for all foster children prescribed psychotropic medications; and
  • Identify the group homes that are most over-reliant on the riskiest psychotropic medication treatments and require these homes to develop corrective action plans that are monitored for progress.

In 2011, the Federal Government Accounting Office issued a report finding numerous problems in the use of psychotropic drugs on foster children. According to report nearly one in four children in foster care are receiving powerful psychotropic drugs. Of all children taking psychotropic medications in California 52% are given antipsychotics which have risk factors that can lead to life-long disabilities such as tremors, obesity, and diabetes.

NCYL Senior Attorney Bill Grimm describes the legislative effort as the most comprehensive approach in the United States to date. “These bills have been able to move thanks to the outstanding leadership in our state. Especially our bill authors Senators Beall, Monning and Mitchell, Senate President De Leon and State Attorney General Harris.” Grimm added, “We look forward to leaders like Assemblymember Chiu stepping forward to move these bills through the Assembly.”

Assemblymember Chiu is Principal Co-Author of all four bills is ready for the challenge. “This legislative package ensures that psychotropic drugs prescribed to children in foster care are administered with appropriate oversight,” Said Chiu. “I look forward to working with my Assembly colleagues to move thoughtful policy forward around this important issue.”

Assembly action on the legislation is expected later this summer.