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Why Are So Many California Foster Children on Antipsychotics?

There is no doubt that being a child in California’s foster care system is stressful, with frequent moves between homes, exposure to abusive adults and fellow children, and unstable educational and disciplinary regimes. But, whether well-intentioned or not, many foster children in California are subject to additional stresses of being prescribed antipsychotic medicines on an incredible scale, with many children being prescribed multiple antipsychotics at a time. These powerful drugs can have dangerous side effects on the health and mental well-being of children while often used as a way of ignoring the root problems that children are facing. A new study indicates a handful of doctors are responsible for the majority of antipsychotic prescriptions.

A Quarter of Foster Children are on Antipsychotics

According to in-depth investigative reports into California’s foster care system, 1 out of 4 adolescents in California’s foster care system are prescribed antipsychotics, nearly four times the national rate. According to the San Jose Mercury News, which conducted one of the investigative reports, these powerful pills are often prescribed not to address actual mental issues but used in a controversial “off label” manner to address problematic behavior.

Essentially, what this means is that foster children who come from difficult circumstances and are exhibiting understandable behavior issues are simply being drugged as a way of coping with the problem rather than addressing the issues, the same as might be done with an unruly animal. As one foster care activist has stated, “We don’t really treat, we use chemical restraints. We drug.”

The Devastating Effects of Antipsychotics on Foster Children

What is the effect of all this drugging? Constant lethargy, kids growing overweight, diabetes, inability to focus at school, and so on. One 31-year old interviewed by the Mercury News says she still shakes uncontrollably from being prescribed a mix of lithium, prozac, Depakote, Zyprexa, and Haldol for years as a teenager in the California foster care system.

10% of Doctors are Prescribing 50% of Antipsychotics

A 2016 study has found that, while the antipsychotic problem is widespread, it is a handful of doctors who are responsible for much of the issue, with 10% of doctors statewide prescribing 50% of the medications that foster care children receive. One San Bernardino County psychiatrist prescribed antipsychotics to 328 foster children, or more than 6 out of every 7 foster children he reviewed.

Other specific doctors are notable for routinely prescribing multiple antipsychotics to the same child, which can have even more dangerous effects on a child’s well-being. The study indicates many of these doctors operate out of the Los Angeles and San Bernardino county areas.

What’s potentially even more troubling is that many of these antipsychotics are being prescribed not by doctors but by nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants, which may be a violation of state law relating to foster care.

What You Can Do to Fight Back Against Foster Care Abuse

California legislators and Governor Jerry Brown have taken steps in the recent year to address issues in California’s foster care system and make those who profit off foster care more accountable, but often times the ability to fight abuse in a specific situation is in the hands of those involved or who have knowledge of a foster care abuse situation.

If you are aware of a situation where a foster child has been improperly prescribed antipsychotics or has endured other forms of foster care abuse, then Pasadena foster care abuse attorney Andrew Ritholz may be able to assist in the situation. Ritholz and his legal team will fully investigate the situation and bring the necessary legal actions to obtain recovery for injured parties in foster care abuse situations. Contact the Law Office of Andrew Ritholz today to schedule a consultation.

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