Monday, February 18, 2008

For Oregon foster children, the psychotropic drugs are plentiful, but mental health services are few

Dr. Walter Shaffer, medical director for Oregon's medical assistance programs testified before the Senate Health and Human Services that:

*Between Jan. 1, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2006, children in the Oregon foster care system were three times more likely than other children to have been prescribed a psychiatric drug.

*Over that two-year period, nearly 4,700 Oregon foster children were prescribed an antidepressant, stimulant or other mood stabilizer.

*Meanwhile, less than a third of them received mental health assessments within 60 days as the law requires.

While the pharmaceutical industry might benefit from this all-too-common lack of oversight, it endangers the lives of these children.

As a former foster child and current youth advocate, I agree with Shaffer's recommendation that the state should:

1.) Hire a medical director for child welfare
2.) Build a network of nurses or mental health experts to consult with caseworkers
3.) Develop a better data system to track psychiatric medications used by children in foster care

It is important to note that this is a national problem, and it needs to be addressed. If the government is 'parenting' these children, then the government is accountable to regulate their medication, just as a parent would.

It is a crime when state laws are ignored, and hundreds of foster children prescribed multiple prescriptions with little or no state scrutiny.

Why? Because young children are three times as likely as adults to have adverse results to psychotropic drugs.

Drastic, damaging side effects can haunt their adulthood, as a result of this negligence, including lifelong medical problems and the inability to have children of their own.

Cole, Michelle. Testimony reveals foster care failings. Oregonian, Feb. 14, 2008.

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As a parent who has adopted from Oregon... *applauding*
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