Thursday, May 29, 2014

APA Calls for Comprehensive, Biopsychosocial Care for Youth in Foster Care

APA told Congress today in a hearing on the treatment of mental illness in foster care that children at risk for psychiatric illness in the foster care system deserve a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation and a biopsychosocial treatment plan. The hearing was convened by a House of Representatives committee to address the treatment of mental illness in the foster care system and especially the use of psychotropic drugs.

In a letter to Subcommittee Chair Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., said APA has endorsed the policy recommendations laid out in the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s "Statement on Oversight of Psychotropic Medication Use for Children in State Custody: A Best Principles Guideline," which call for all youth with apparent emotional disturbances to receive “a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation, a biopsychosocial treatment plan if indicated, proper case management, and effective medication management that includes monitoring response to treatment and screening for adverse effects.”

Levin added, “Children in foster care systems experience high rates of mental illness and require a broad spectrum of mental health services. According to the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, upwards of three-fourths of children entering foster care exhibit behavior or social competency problems that warrant mental health care…. It is clear that this vulnerable population demands responsible policymaking and appropriate oversight to ensure that best practices in mental health delivery are employed.”

Levin also told the subcommittee that the shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists is a major obstacle to the promotion of sound mental health among youth in foster care. “APA urges Congress to support federal programs that seek to address this shortage and provide children and adolescents with care from the highest quality and most specifically trained clinicians,” he said. "[W]e would like to highlight valuable programs like the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (MCPAP), which provides critical mental health expertise to primary care providers in order to improve access to treatment for children with psychiatric disorders. Congress should incentivize states to incorporate innovative programs like MCPAP in order to mitigate this workforce shortage.”

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Michael Naylor, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, also testified at the hearing today. Look for further coverage of the hearing in an upcoming issue of Psychiatric News.

(Image: Orhan Cam/


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