One in three Texas foster children on psychotropic drugs - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

One in three Texas foster children on psychotropic drugs

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Amarillo, TX -- Children in the state foster care system are overmedicated and undertreated, creating what could arguably be called a culture of dependency within the system, according to child welfare advocates.

According to the latest numbers from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services and the Government Accountability Office, about one in three foster kids in Texas are on at least one psychotropic drug, which is the second-highest rate in the nation.  And now advocates are saying the state needs to kick its addiction to quick fixes for the sake of our children.

Children entering foster care are frequently coming from incredibly abusive and traumatic living situations, and many of them carry deep-seated psychological wounds.  And while drugs are many times the best and only option to deal with those wounds, child welfare advocates say the system needs to cut back - way back.

"I'm not saying there aren't children in care that need psychotropic medications, because there are," says Keith Howard, the Panhandle area state Director of Arrow Child & Family Ministries.  "There are children who need that, but I think more often than not, it's an easy fix. And we've got to get away from the easy fix."

But the fault generally doesn't lie with the doctors writing the prescriptions - because usually by the time it comes to that, all other options have been exhausted.

Dr. James A. Rush IV, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center says moderation is not only medically prudent, but morally right, saying, "One of my goals that I have with all of my kids, because this is the way I'd want to treat my own kid, is that I want kids to be on as little medicine as possible for the least amount of time possible."

Earlier this week, child welfare advocates from Amarillo and across the state joined forces in Austin to push for legislation that would mandate a 60-day waiting period before prescribing drugs.

Lara Escobar, the Director of Case Managers at Amarillo CASA, explains their case, saying, "Sometimes these kids get put on medications within the first 24 to 48 hours, and so we just really want to push them to put some policies in place that say, 'Hey, we know some kids need to be on medication, but let's just take it case-by-case and really evaluate the kid and give them some time to adjust.'"

As it stands now, no such legislation has been filed in Austin - but on Wednesday, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst has directed his staff to look into the issue.

If you'd like to look into the issue yourself, you'll find another article and both the HHS and GAO reports at the attached links.