Friday, March 18, 2011

Pilot Project Funded for Prescription Drug Oversight for Foster Children

State Representative Mary Margaret Oliver (D–Decatur) today (March 17) announced that Casey Family Programs will fund a pilot program to review prescription patterns of psychotropic drugs for children in Georgia’s foster care system. The program will work out of the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory University Law School, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) and other community partners.

“This pilot project to review how the state provides mental health services and psychotropic prescriptions for foster care children is an excellent public-private partnership including the courts, physicians and the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory Law School,” said Commissioner Clyde L. Reese, Commissioner of Department of Human Services.

“Many children in foster care have been traumatized and are in need of quality mental health treatment. However, multiple overlapping layers of prescription drugs is not always quality care,” said Rep. Oliver. “This Casey Family Programs grant will help us develop a plan for better mental health care, and I am grateful for their timely participation.”

Today’s announcement came as a direct result of Georgia Supreme Court’s “Cold Case Project” recommendations and House Bill 23, which would put those recommendations into law.

The Georgia Supreme Court’s Cold Case Project is funded by Casey Family Programs and conducted in full partnership with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services and the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate. This project allows thirteen attorneys, serving as Supreme Court of Georgia Fellows, to thoroughly review cases of children who have been in foster care for an extended period of time and who appear to be aging out of foster care without attaining permanency.

When the Cold Case Project concluded its original one year term, the Committee on Justice for Children published a paper based on project findings. This paper included recommendations for changes in law or policy that will serve to stop “foster care drift” and find permanent homes for children who have been in foster care more than two years. “Drift” refers to a child’s lengthy placement away from the natural family and no clear goal to return the child or find some other permanent home.

Working in a bi-partisan manner to enact the Cold Case Project recommendations, Representatives Mary Margaret Oliver and Judy Manning (R-Marietta) sponsored HB 23. This legislation is a product of efforts involving Governor Deal, Commissioners Frank Shelp of the Department of Behavior Health, Commissioner Reese, and other state leaders.

“Governor Deal’s early career days as a juvenile court judge gives him unique insight into what children in foster care experience and how government cannot be the best parent for children who have experienced trauma,” said Rep. Oliver.

HB 23 would create an independent medical review for prescription drug use of children in state custody. The bill would also require DHS to develop an independent medical review of psychotropic medications and to define the proper authority for consenting to prescription drugs for children in foster care. These measures are necessary because Department of Community Health cost reports and file reviews show that children in foster care are prescribed psychotropic drugs at an alarmingly high rate.

HB 23 is currently under review in the House Health and Human Services Committee.

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