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DHHS settles suit over foster children medication oversight, will implement reforms

Maine's Department of Health and Human Services will put new procedures in place when medicating foster children after settling a lawsuit earlier this month.

The action was filed in 2021 by Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer and Nelson and the national advocacy group Children’s Rights, and claimed that the department lacked oversight of kids who were prescribed psychotropic drugs.

Under the settlement, reforms will include a new medical record-keeping system that will follow children through foster placements and an informed consent process to help children understand and agree to prescribed medications.

"This reform and settlement goes to establishing a system that will ensure that kids have a more broad spectrum of information available," said Jack Woodcock, one of the attorneys that filed the suit.

There will also be a clinical review team to assess certain high-risk prescriptions.

"We worked hand in hand with the state to develop this system that will work and bring meaningful change to the kids, and we're highly appreciative of the state's efforts," Woodcock said.

A spokesperson for DHHS says the suit stemmed from practices that predate the current administration, but that the department looks forward to continuing to improve practices and implement the reforms.

Kaitlyn Budion is Maine Public’s Bangor correspondent, joining the reporting team after several years working in print journalism.