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Investigation: Maine Gives Psychotropic Drugs To More Foster Children Than Most States

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Maine has one of the nation’s highest rates of prescribing psychotropic drugs to children in the foster care system — and it’s only partially in compliance with its own policies. That’s according to a new investigation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Ann Maxwell with the federal DHHS, who worked on the report, says in Maine, as many as a third of children receiving those drugs did not get a treatment plan or medication monitoring that state law requires.

“There is a gap between what Maine’s child welfare agency requires, what they believe to be important to keep children safe when using these powerful drugs, and what is actually happening,” she says. “Our recommendation is for the department to work with Maine to try and close that compliance gap, so we don’t have 1 in 3 children in the foster care system who aren’t getting the safeguards they need to protect them from inappropriate care.”

Maxwell also says the state should work to bring its laws more in line with recommendations from professional child psychiatry organizations.

Psychotropics include commonly prescribed drugs such as Prozac and Ritalin, as well as powerful antipsychotics like clozapine.

Maine treated 32.7 percent of children in foster care with psychotropic medication, giving it the fifth-highest rate in the U.S. in 2012, the most recent year for which complete information was available. New Hampshire was also in the top five.

Maine’s Department of Health and Human services didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.