Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Q&A: Can schools require pyschotropic medication?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: In 2017, SB 5448 was introduced in the state legislature; it would have prohibited school staff from denying students access to programs or services because the parent or guardian has refused to place the student on psychotropic medication.

But this is already covered in law, and the bill did not make it through the House - though it did pass the Senate 48-0, with 1 excused.

Federal law and state regulation relating to special education provide that school district personnel are prohibited from requiring parents to obtain a prescription for substances identified in the federal Controlled Substances Act for a  student  as  a  condition  of  attending  school,  receiving  an  evaluation,  or receiving  special education services.

While a child with a life-threatening health condition needs a treatment order to attend school, medically related requirements for attendance cannot require students to take prescription medicines.

In response to the bill, however, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction updated its regulations to provide clarity to school districts and language for advocates to cite.

Newly adopted WAC 392-172A-02075 - Prohibition on Mandatory Medication - makes it clear that no student can be required by the school to take medications as a condition of attending school, participating in school district sponsored activities, receiving an evaluation, or receiving special education services.

The new rule language should make it much easier for parents and students to challenge any threat to educational services on the condition of medication at school. Changes were filed January 11, 2018, and became effective February 11, 2018.

WHAT ARE PSYCHOTROPIC MEDICATIONS? "According to the National Institute of Mental Health, psychotropic medications are medications that affect the brain chemicals associated with mood and behavior. Psychotropic medications are available by prescription and include different classifications of drugs, such as:  antipsychotics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, mood stabilizers, and stimulants.  "Psychotropic medication" is defined in administrative rules of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) governing foster homes as a type of medicine that is prescribed to affect or alter thought processes, mood, sleep or behavior.  The administrative definition specifies that these medications include antipsychotic, antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications.

"The Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) is required to review the psychotropic medications of all children under 5 years old and to establish one or more mechanisms to evaluate the appropriateness of the medication these children are using.  The HCA is also required to track prescriptive practices with respect to psychotropic medications with the goal of reducing the use of medication."

- Excerpt from Washington State House of Representatives' bill analysis of SB 5448