Sen. Carper Continues to Push for Enhanced Oversight on the Improper Prescribing of Psychotropic Drugs to America’s Foster Children

WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, discussed his ongoing oversight to address the over-prescribing of psychotropic drugs to children in America’s foster care systems. His remarks were part of a briefing organized by First Focus and Voices for Adoption, which focused on states’ progress and remaining challenges of effectively monitoring prescriptions and providing coordinated, qualitative care for foster children.

“Across the country, many foster children show symptoms of emotional trauma, abuse, or neglect. Too often, these children are prescribed improper levels of mind-altering medications at too young an age and contrary to established medical best practices. Unfortunately, these prescriptions only address the symptoms of the problem and not the underlying causes. This briefing highlighted the significant steps that some states have taken to address this serious issue. It is promising that some states have made progress in using alternative treatments to address underlying causes of trauma. These treatments have improved outcomes for children, and in some cases, reduced or eliminated the need for mind-altering medications. But more work must be done nationwide to ensure that youth in foster care receive the kind of care they need. Congress and the Administration need to work together to better incentivize states to figure out what alternative treatments are working and increase their use. These include behavioral therapies to help children learn new habits and ways to express themselves, and cognitive therapies to help children overcome negative thoughts and emotions. Fortunately, the President’s budget proposal is a step in the right direction. As the Book of Matthew reminds us, we have a moral imperative to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and to care especially for the ‘least of these’ in society. We also have a fiscal obligation to act as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars, and help states find fiscally responsible ways to improve outcomes for our nation’s foster children.”

This year, the President’s fiscal year 2016 budget proposal includes $500 million for a new Medicaid demonstration in partnership with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to provide performance-based incentive payments to states through Medicaid. In addition to this, $250 million is requested to build and monitor the integrity of the demonstration program. This $750 million in funding will encourage the use of evidence-based treatment of trauma and mental health disorders among foster care youth to reduce the over-prescription of psychotropic medications.

Senator Carper has provided critical leadership and oversight on the improper prescribing of mind-altering medications, also known as psychotropic drugs, for children in the American foster care system. In December 2011, as chairman of the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee, he released a Government Accountability (GAO) report that found that thousands of foster children, including infants, are prescribed alarmingly heavy doses of psychotropic medications in excess of the maximum doses for the child’s age as recommended by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, he continued leading efforts to conduct oversight in this area. In April 2014, GAO released a follow-up report that highlights individual children’s medical and psychological treatment while in foster care. The report concluded that additional efforts may be needed to address the problem that psychotropic drugs are overly prescribed to our nation’s foster youth.

Last month, Sen. Carper, a senior Member of the Finance committee, set forth a legislative proposal that would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue guidance to states clarifying Medicaid reimbursement practices for behavioral health interventions for children in foster care.