California Working to Reduce Use of Antipsychotic Meds

A few months ago we talked about the widespread use of antipsychotic drugs for patients with dementia. Across the United States, off-label use is a major problem in nursing homes. In case you don’t remember, “off-label use” refers to situations in which physicians prescribe drugs for patients without medical diagnoses that actually require the use of those drugs. In nursing homes, off-label use of antipsychotics is most prevalent for residents suffering from dementia.

In many cases these patients are victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. What can we do about it here in California? If you’re concerned that an elderly loved one has suffered abuse at a nursing home or assisted-living facility, the first step is to contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer. In fact, many nursing home abuse lawyers are licensed by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR). A CANHR elder justice advocate will ensure that your elderly loved ones are protected and safe.

California Initiatives for Antipsychotic Medication Reduction

At the same time, there’s some hope. There are certain initiatives in our state to reduce the abuse of antipsychotic drugs. Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) introduced a national initiative to reduce the “unnecessary use of antipsychotic drugs and improve the overall care of nursing home residents with dementia.”

Just a day later, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) collaborated with the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to address the use of antipsychotic drugs in California nursing homes and the related care for residents with dementia living in these facilities. They issued an Executive Report on the CDPH/DHCS Antipsychotic Collaborative, which explained certain “quality of care findings” that impacted nursing, medical, and pharmaceutical care in our state. The report also recommended opportunities for improvements in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities throughout California.

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The collaborative hope is that the strategies outlined in the report would “improve dementia care and reduce the use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing home resident by 15% by December 31, 2012,” and by 30% by June 30, 2013. While the goal number wasn’t wholly met by last December, significant improvement was made. In response to the promising figures, the initiative put together additional measures to make sure it would reach its June 2013 goal of reducing antipsychotics by 30%.
Initiative Numbers Fall Short but Remain Promising
An article in the Sacramento Business Journal reported that California nursing homes reduced their unnecessary use of antipsychotic medications by 8.5% last year, which means they made “better progress on the initiative than 39 other states.” Yet, the 15% drop wasn’t met. So what’s being done now?
James Gomez, the CEO of the California Association of Health Facilities, described the number as “a good start.” He emphasized that “the reduction of antipsychotic medication crosses into every aspect of the healthcare continuum—and this effort will succeed with the help of doctors, nurses, hospitals, families and nursing home caregivers.” The initiative will continue to implement its strategies of awareness and education in an effort to bring the use of antipsychotic medications to a minimum.

Since last year, CMS and the CDPH have stressed the “top priority” of reducing the use of antipsychotic medications in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. We’ll have to wait for this year’s report to see if the initiative met its June goal. At the very least, we can hope the number decreased even further from its 8.5% reduction at the end of 2012.

In the meantime, if your elderly loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, she or he may be eligible for compensation. A nursing home abuse attorney can answer your questions today.

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