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Watchdog Group Says N.H. Lacks Safeguards for Foster Kids on Psych Drugs

New Hampshire has one of the country’s highest rates of foster care kids receiving drugs for emotional and psychiatric issues, and many of them don’t have a treatment plan.

That’s according to a report released this week from the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The report examined the most recently available data in five states with the highest rate of psychotropic drug treatment for foster care kids: Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Virginia.

In New Hampshire, over a third of foster care kids were treated with psychotropic drugs for conditions ranging from ADHD to depression.

The report found 23 percent did not receive a treatment plan as required by the state; 38 percent of those who did receive a treatment plan had no accompanying diagnosis.

Ann Maxwell is an Assistant Inspector General at the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. DHHS.

“This is a study is about children’s lives and their ability to function,” she said. “These are children at risk. They have been removed from their families and they are coping with mental health challenges.”

Maxwell stressed that medication can be helpful for some kids, but that without adequate monitoring, many “are at risk of getting powerful medicines that they do not need which exposes them to serious side effects.”

These side effects include drowsiness, nausea, and suicidal ideations.

Jake Leon of the New Hampshire DHHS said it is reviewing the report and has identified the need for better mental health services in the foster care system.

DHHS and other groups are working this fall on a10-year Mental Health Plan, which Leon said “will include a focus on addressing the mental health needs of children in New Hampshire.”



Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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