By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Children in foster care in Pennsylvania are at least three times as likely as other children to receive drugs used to treat mental illness.

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That’s the conclusion of research released today at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the results have public health officials concerned.

Researchers found that while about 15 percent of all children covered by Medicaid receive psychotropic drugs — drugs that work on their brains — about 45 percent of those in foster care do.

State human services secretary Ted Dallas (in photo below) says it’s true that kids in foster care may have greater mental health needs because of the trauma that got them in the system, but he says the disparity indicates that overmedication is taking place.

“To think that we’re compounding that damage (of foster care placement) by inappropriately prescribing medication to these kids is deeply disturbing to me and is simply unacceptable,” he said.

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(Pennsylvania DHS secretary Ted Dallas addresses health care professionals during release of a report on mental health drug use, and probable overuse, on foster children.  Photo by Pat Loeb)

(Pennsylvania DHS secretary Ted Dallas addresses health care professionals during release of a report on mental health drug use, and probable overuse, on foster children. Photo by Pat Loeb)

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Pennsylvania officials have already launched a response. Deputy human services secretary Cathy Utz says it includes increased monitoring of prescriptions for foster children and better training for their relatives and foster families on how they can get involved and “be part of the fight in the overmedication of children in foster care.”

 

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