AO Testimony on Oversight of Psychotropic Prescriptions for Children in Foster Care
From Congressional Documents & Publications (December 1, 2011)
M E M O R A N D U M
TO: Reporters and Editors
RE: GAO testimony on oversight of psychotropic prescriptions for children in foster care
DA: Thursday, December 1, 2011
Senator Chuck Grassley issued the comment below regarding new findings from the Government Accountability Office about dramatically higher rates of psychotropic prescription drugs being given to foster children over other children in Medicaid. The GAO is finishing work on a report requested by Senator Tom Carper of Delaware. Senators Grassley, Collins, McCain and Scott Brown joined in requesting the report. The GAO today testified about its findings during a hearing of a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. A foster youth named Ke'onte Cook also testified about his personal experience in having to take several medications while moving from one foster home to another.
Senator Grassley's comment:
"Children in the foster system are about as vulnerable as children can be, so more should be known about the degree to which foster children are given psychotropic drugs and the rationale for doing so, especially given the dramatic findings of this report. The federal government should provide, without delay, the recommended guidance to states for monitoring what's happening. Prescribing patterns and adverse effects need to be tracked for the well-being and protection of these children. An environment needs to be established where there's accountability for the degree to which these drugs are used in order to make sure it's not just for convenience and at the children's expense. There's also a public interest in making certain Medicaid isn't being abused through over prescribing. My oversight, combined with investigative reporting, has exposed a few doctors in Florida who prescribed higher numbers of psychotropic drugs than seem humanly possible. That's the kind of pattern states and the federal government need to monitor and nip in the bud as problems develop. Also, disclosure of drug company payments to doctors will help to identify doctors who might be inclined to prescribe certain drugs at high levels because of a strong relationship with the drug maker."
Senator Grassley has worked to make improvements to the foster care system and to make it easier for children in foster care to be adopted into permanent, loving homes, including the landmark 2008 law. The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 requires states to strengthen oversight of medical treatment and ensure that foster children receive high-quality, coordinated services when their placements change.
In 2009, Senator Grassley and Senator Mary Landrieu founded a Foster Youth Caucus in the Senate to draw the attention of policy makers to the needs of older children in foster care and the importance of helping children in the foster care transition out of the system and to independence, without the support of family.
Separately, beginning in 2007, Senator Grassley made the case for requiring pharmaceutical and medical device makers to disclose payments they make to doctors. The disparities he disclosed between payments that research doctors reported receiving and payments that were made by drug makers galvanized support for enactment last year of a reform legislation sponsored by Senator Grassley and Senator Herb Kohl which will require disclosure. Under their Physician Payments Sunshine Act, drug, device and medical supply companies must file annual reports with Department of Health and Human Services delineating all payments over $10, and the information will be posted online in a searchable manner beginning on September 30, 2013, and then on March 31 each subsequent year. Physician names, office addresses, and specialties will be posted along with the form and amount of payments. Senator Grassley has said this reform will provide transparency and, in turn, greater accountability in medical research and practice.
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Posted: December 2011