Children from low-income families that receive Medicaid benefits are being prescribed antipsychotic medications far too often. The problem has become so pervasive that the federal Department of Health and Human Services has launched “a review of antipsychotic drug use by Medicaid recipients age 17 and under,” according to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal. The data cited in the newspaper showed that over 600,000 individuals age 20 and younger on Medicaid were on antipsychotic medication in 2008.
The issues that result from prescribing heavy-duty psychiatric drugs to children whose brains are not yet fully developed are numerous and have not been entirely explored.
Equally problematic is the fact that Medicaid doesn’t pay out enough to doctors to make providing proper treatment economically viable. Healthcare is still a business in this country, and private physicians have bills to pay just like any other company. The influx of individual into the Medicaid system and those limited payouts force doctors to do the best they can for their patients. As a result, the medical system is placing a fast and easy band-aid on a health issue that requires a psychiatric treatment that is far more involved and long-term than shoving a bottle of pills into a patient’s hand and sending them on their way.
The medical system is not doing those children any favors by not allowing doctors to address the root cause of their psychological issues.
But responsibility doesn’t fall entirely on doctors or the Medicaid system. Parents need to make themselves aware of both the risks and benefits of the medicine that is prescribed to their children. Parenting a child with psychological problems is not easy, but the ultimate goal of parents and the medical community should be the complete recovery and healing of the child, no matter how difficult.