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Foster Children: HHS Guidance Could Help States Improve Oversight of Psychotropic Prescriptions

GAO-12-270T Published: Dec 01, 2011. Publicly Released: Dec 01, 2011.
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Foster children have often been removed from abusive or neglectful homes and tend to have more mental health conditions than other children. Treatment may include psychotropic drugs but their risks to children are not well understood. Medicaid, administered by states and overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provides prescription drug coverage to foster children. This testimony examines (1) rates of psychotropic prescriptions for foster and nonfoster children in 2008 and (2) state oversight of psychotropic prescriptions for foster children through October 2011. GAO selected Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, and Texas primarily based on their geographic diversity and size of the foster care population. Results cannot be generalized to other states. In addition, GAO analyzed Medicaid fee-for-service and foster care data from selected states for 2008, the most recent year of prescription data available at the start of the audit. Maryland's 2008 foster care data was unreliable. GAO also used expert child psychiatrists to provide a clinical perspective on its methodology and analysis, reviewed regulations and state policies, and interviewed federal and state officials.

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Child care programsChild welfareDisadvantaged personsSubstance abuse treatmentDrugsstate relationsFoster childrenHealth care programsHealth care servicesInformed consent (medical law)MedicaidMental health care servicesMonitoringParentsPrescription drugs