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January 1, 2012

SEN. SCOTT BROWN: Foster children, often being removed from neglectful or abusive homes, are one of the country’s most vulnerable populations. With the often traumatic circumstances that define their early lives, it is no wonder studies show their tendency for more mental health conditions than other children.

Facing these and other significant challenges surrounding foster care programs, state authorities, caseworkers, and parents, are given few options on appropriate treatments. As our witnesses will discuss today, these options often include prescribing heavy-duty psychotropic drugs such as antidepressants and, in some cases, even antipsychotics – drugs which have little research available supporting their use in children.

While the use of psychotropic medications has been shown to effectively treat mental disorders, the side-effects and risks they pose, specifically to children, are not well understood. This is why we asked GAO to look into this issue more closely and their investigation has produced some alarming results. Not only are foster children being prescribed psychotropic drugs at a higher rate than non-foster kids in general, but also in ways that hold significantly higher risks, such as multiple medications at once or in amounts exceeding FDA recommendations. In Massachusetts, nearly 40% of the foster children population analyzed in the report was prescribed at least one psychotropic drug — a rate almost four times that of non-foster children. In over 900 cases in Massachusetts, foster children were being prescribed three or more drugs at once. While the scope of the report does not address the appropriateness of these
prescriptions on a case-by-case basis, it does reignite the debate over whether the rates of prescribing match the scientific evidence behind these medical conditions.

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Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security
Thursday, December 1, 2011
10:30 AM
Dirksen Senate Office Building, room SD-342

Member Statements
• U.S. Senator Thomas R. Carper, view statement:

• U.S. Senator Scott Brown, view statement:

Panel 1
• Mr. Ke’onte Cook
• Mrs. Carol Cook

Panel 2
• Gregory D. Kutz, Director, Forensic Audits and Investigative Services U. S. Government Accountability Office

• Mr. Bryan Samuels, Commissioner, Administration on Children, Youth and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, view testimony:

• Mr. Matt Salo, Executive Director, National Association of State Medicaid Directors,
view testimony:

• Dr. Jon McClellan, Child Psychiatrist, Seattle Children’s Hospital, view testimony:

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