For Immediate Release:
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Contact: Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Strayhorn Special Report Reveals State's Failure to Provide Quality Care for Foster Children
(Austin) -- Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Chairman, Medicaid and Public Assistance Fraud Oversight Task Force, today released her health care claims study special report on foster children, which made 48 recommendations to the Medicaid Fraud and Public Assistance Task Force to improve the quality of health care for the more than 32,000 Texas foster children.
“This report reveals shocking evidence of the system’s failure regarding the care provided to our foster children,” Strayhorn said. “For example, one foster child who just turned three years old was placed in a private psychiatric hospital for 10 days. Before her hospitalization, she had been prescribed a bundle of psychotropic medications, including antipyschotics, antidepressants, a sedative, stimulant and mood stabilizer.
“An 18-year-old foster child spent 94 percent of one year in three different psychiatric hospitals. She went to the emergency room four times and then had to have her arm amputated because of infection from injuries.
“I found foster children were sometimes dumped in psychiatric hospitals, and were often left by caseworkers for up to three months after they were approved for discharge – that’s absolutely unacceptable and at an unnecessary cost to the state to boot.
“This report raises many red flags pointing to areas of potential fraud and abuse that I am referring to the Office of Inspector General at the Health and Human Services Commission to investigate. In a separate report also released today, Review and Analysis of the Medicaid and Public Assistance Task Force, I am recommending the Office of Inspector General report directly to the Governor and become an independent office.
“This report, as the Forgotten Children report did, gives these children something they desperately need – a voice.”
The report, Texas Health Care Claims Study -- Special Report on Foster Children, recommended:
- a full investigation by the Office of Inspector General into potential fraud and abuse identified in the report;
- hiring a physician at Department of Family of Protective Services as fulltime medical director responsible for health care of Texas’ foster children;
- creating a “medical passport” for each foster child, which would follow each child as they move from one placement to another;
- requiring prior authorization for prescriptions to address the dispensing of non-FDA approved psychotropic medications for children;
- seeking lower-cost, less-restrictive alternatives to psychiatric hospitalization and immediately developing rules for psychiatric hospitalization of foster children;
- studying complementary treatments to psychotropic medications, such as therapy, diet, exercise, therapeutic activities and mentor programs; and
- the Office of Inspector General at HHSC and the State Auditor review the quality of the physical environments in which foster children live and make recommendations to improve the standards for living conditions.
“My first investigation into the Texas foster care system in 2004 -- Forgotten Children -- documented the tragic failure of the system. Part of the report focused on psychotropic medications and care prescribed to our foster children. The findings caused me deep concern and led to my decision to look into this aspect of the system more closely.
“Given the distressing findings contained in this report, I hope the state will not delay in adopting my recommendations, which have been crafted to help mend this broken system. I hope our state’s leadership and the health and human service agencies will work to make things better for our state’s most vulnerable children.”
To view the full report, go to www.window.state.tx.us.