Changing Care for Troubled Children

Image of a child

Since 1996, Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska has been offering healing and hope to children and adolescents with serious behavioral health problems at its Intensive Residential Treatment Center. The Center, a medically directed program located within the Hospital, is a 47-bed, short-term facility for children who have psychiatric disorders but are not appropriate for short term admission to an acute care psychiatric hospital.

In recent years there has been an alarming increase in the number of children who, at the time of admission to the Center, are taking multiple prescribed psychotropic drugs to control their behavior.

“Currently, about 70 percent of children are taking psychotropic drugs at admission, with more than one third taking three or more medications, with dosages often exceeding age appropriate levels,” said Patrick E. Brookhouser, M.D., Executive Vice President and Director of Health Care for Boys Town and Director of the Hospital. “There is little scientific evidence regarding the safety and efficacy of these powerful drugs with young patients.”

Boys Town is working to reduce the escalating use of psychotropic drugs through the integration of its medical and youth care treatment models that de-emphasize the use of these powerful medications in favor of less risky behavioral management techniques. As a result, a significant reduction or elimination of the drugs can be achieved by the time children transition to a less restrictive level of care in the Boys Town Continuum of Care.

“In most cases, we have successfully eliminated or reduced the use of these drugs by most of the children in our program,” said Dr. Brookhouser. “Those children remaining on medication are taking age appropriate levels.”