Washington State House Democrats


Governor signs Kagi’s bill to improve mental health treatment for youth in foster care

OLYMPIA – Governor Inslee signed House Bill 1879 yesterday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle will give youth in foster care better access to health and mental health services by integrating physical and behavioral health together into a single care plan. Additionally, this bill will put some much needed safeguards in place regarding prescribing anti-psychotic drugs to youth in foster care.

“Youth in foster care experience trauma and many struggle to get their complicated physical and mental health care needs met,” said Kagi. “This bill will make sure that a single care plan can provide the full range of necessary services for children in foster care, giving them a better chance at achieving health and stability.”

This bill requires integration of behavioral health services into a single managed health care plan for children in foster care by 2018. Similar integrated care plans in Texas and Georgia have significantly improved the coordination and delivery of services to youth in foster care, decreased costs and improved overall outcomes, including reducing the number of children needing high levels of care and the use of antipsychotic medications.

Additionally, HB 1879 makes changes to the process for prescribing antipsychotic medications to youth in foster care. The bill requires a second opinion from a psychiatrist for antipsychotic medications. The bill also promotes the use of behavioral therapies first and in addition to prescription medications.

“Nationally, youth in foster care are prescribed these very powerful drugs seven times more often than youth who are not in foster care,” said Kagi. “It is our hope that by creating an integrated care system to provide care for the whole-child, the need for antipsychotic medications will decrease. This bill takes the additional step of making sure that we are reducing reliance on antipsychotic drugs by taking a slower approach to their use.”