By Han Jiang
A bill proposed in February would require the California Department of Social Services to create a new system where public health nurses monitor the prescription of psychotropic medications to foster youth.
Senate Bill 319, sponsored by State Sens. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) and Bill Monning (D-Carmel), would require a county to provide the services of a public health nurse to children in foster care by contracting with the community child health and disability prevention program established by that county. It also requires a public health nurse to monitor and oversee each child in foster care who is administered one or more psychotropic medications.
This bill is a part of a bundle of legislation spurred by a series of investigative stories published by the San Jose Mercury News. That series, titled “Drugging Our Kids,” found that one in four adolescents in foster care had been prescribed a psychotropic medication, and that a smaller but notable percentage had been prescribed powerful antipsychotics, which caused dramatic weight gain, lethargy and a host of other problems.
The bill’s sponsors are hopeful that it will ensure increased regulation of the prescription of psychotropic medications to foster youth.
Carla Saporta, a legislative consultant working in Senator Beall’s office, said that the SB 319, along with other related bills like SB 484 regarding the reduction of use of psychotropic drugs to restrain foster children in group homes, was developed in collaboration with the National Center for Youth Law as a comprehensive package to address the overmedication of foster youth.
“Mental health and foster youth issues are very important to Jim, and something that he has worked for the past eight years in the legislature,” Saporta said. “These bills are a result of many years of research.”
Under the bill, a public health nurse would be required to monitor each child in foster care who is administered one or more psychotropic medications. The public health nurse would be granted access to the child’s medical, dental and mental health care information.
Han Jiang is a graduate student of public policy at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. She wrote this story as a student in the school’s Media for Policy Change class.