Minnesota Takes Aim At Overmedication Of Children

The high rate of psychotropic drug prescriptions for children in foster care has long been a point of concern for Children’s Rights and other child welfare experts. A federal study by the United States Government Accountability Office shows that 35 percent of foster children are prescribed psychotropic drugs, compared to just 10 percent of other children.

The state of Minnesota, however, appears to be addressing the problem, according to a blog by The Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Primary care doctors will need to check in before prescribing antipsychotics and other dicey psychiatric medications to many children in Minnesota. The state Department of Human Services [DHS] has hired the Mayo Clinic to provide a new consult service to cut down on doctors who make questionable prescriptions of psychiatric drugs and to improve the quality of child mental health care in the state.

Doctors will only be required to consult with the Mayo Clinic if the child is on Medicaid, but are encouraged to do so regardless of insurance coverage. DHS commissioner Lucinda Jesson has made a point of addressing the need for this change:

The proof to Jesson that psychiatric drugs are being over prescribed and used incorrectly is the high rate of these drugs among Minnesota’s foster children. The drugs are five times more prevalent among foster children.

“While it is certainly the case that children known to the child welfare system are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health disorders than either the general population or other children receiving Medicaid, the magnitude of the medication disparity is alarming.”

According to an investigative series by the Star Tribune, the overmedication of the state’s children has led to serious consequences:

… antipsychotics and other drugs has caused children to suffer additional problems and to be locked in psychiatric hospitals unnecessarily. Many prescribed drugs have never been tested or approved by federal regulators as safe for children.

While some doctors reportedly are upset with the state adding another step to the prescription process, others have admitted to feeling unsure about prescribing psychotropic drugs to children and welcome the support that the program will provide.

An added benefit of the program–beyond addressing a serious medical issue–is that it won’t cost taxpayers a dime:

The state expects that the $1.7 million cost of this program over two years will be paid back by reduced hospitalizations and healthier children.