Funder: Annie E. Casey Foundation

April 2014 | Technical Assistance Tool


In the past decade, the prescribing of psychotropic medications to children in the United States has increased significantly, raising concerns nationally about the appropriate use and oversight of these medications. Children and adolescents in the nation’s foster care system are at a particularly high-risk for being prescribed psychotropic medications, with rates of use as high as 50 percent. These high rates are often due to gaps in coordination and continuity of care; provider shortages; lack of access to effective medication alternatives (non-pharmacological interventions); and incomplete, insufficient, or inefficient approaches to state oversight and monitoring.

To improve oversight and monitoring of psychotropic medication use, states should collect accurate data about prescribing patterns among Medicaid providers — a process that begins with establishing state-level consensus on what to monitor. To explore this issue, a Data Workgroup composed of representatives from the six states involved in CHCS’ psychotropic medications quality improvement collaborative, developed a set of common definitions and measures to improve monitoring and oversight of psychotropic medication prescribing among their child populations. This technical assistance resource shares these definitions and measures to assist other states in their psychotropic medication monitoring and oversight efforts.