More Monitoring Needed of Kids in California Mental Health Clinics

Study found follow-up on medications not tight enough

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THURSDAY, Jan. 20, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Problems with documentation of drug responses and child abuse screening and reporting are among the gaps in quality of care for children in California's public mental health clinics, says a University of California, Los Angeles-led study.

Researchers examined the patient records of children treated at the public clinics and identified a number of strengths and weaknesses in quality of care for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and major depression.

The clinics received high marks for the thoroughness of mental health evaluations on the children. But the study said there was moderate to poor documentation of medical monitoring of psychoactive medications, parent consent for children's medication treatment, recommended contact with schools and other health-care providers, and child abuse screening and reporting.

The study noted that nearly 75 percent of patient records of children receiving psychoactive drug treatment failed to document adequate safety monitoring using vital signs or laboratory results.

"Findings from this study raise serious questions about the documentation of the child's response to medication treatment and the adequacy of medical monitoring," principal investigator Dr. Bonnie T. Zima, a professor in residence of psychiatry and biobehavioral science, said in a prepared statement.

"Our research team looks forward to working with the state and county mental health departments on developing programs to improve the quality of care that children receive and the documentation of that care," Zima said.

The study appears in the February issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about child and adolescent mental health.

SOURCE: University of California, Los Angeles, news release, Jan. 19, 2005

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