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Bill Spotlights Medication Given to Texas Minors in Foster Care

Texas health agencies report more foster children take psychotropic medication than other children in Medicaid. Experts say foster care youth need it to deal with trauma and mental disorders.

But a bill in the Texas Legislature aims to monitor the handing out of prescriptions to these minors. 

Members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee are weighing House Bill 915 by State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. It would allow 16 and 17 year-olds to refuse a medication and would require a check-in with a doctor at least once every 90 days, among other provisions.

Sherita Lynch volunteers with Texas Court Appointed Special Advocates. She says many minors in foster care often don’t know why they’re prescribed something and says some are given pills before therapy.

"It’s cheaper, it’s faster and it will give you a semi-automatic response to try to get a child’s behavior under control," Lynch said.

Eric Woomer is with the Federation of Texas Psychiatry. He also wants these children to get therapy but says not all medication is bad.

"Sometimes medical intervention with medication is needed to calm the child down to the point that you can have a meaningful interaction and dialogue about what the treatment needs to be," Woomer said.

The Health and Human Services Commission reports the use of psychotropic meds among foster care children fell by about 10 percentage points between 2004 to 2010, after the state issued parameters in 2005.

If the Senate panel passes the bill, it goes next to the Senate floor. 

Editor's Note: This story has been edited to clarify the decrease in foster children receiving psychotropic drugs for more than 60 days. The story originally said the use of psychotropic meds among foster care children dropped almost 30 percent from 2004 to 2010 .

The HHSC report shows 29.9% of foster children were getting psychotropic drugs in fiscal year 2004. That fell to 20.5% by fiscal year 2010. While that number fell by 9.4 percentage points, it reflects a 32 percent reduction in the rate of foster children being medicated.

Credit Texas Heath and Human Services Commission