State Sen. Stephanie Bice has offered Senate Bill 142 to limit the use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes.

Nearly 1 in 5 Oklahoma nursing home residents is being given powerful antipsychotic drugs despite the lack of an appropriate medical diagnosis, according to a 2018 AARP report.

Unprescribed drugs designed for people with schizophrenia and other severe psychiatric disorders are being given to a greater portion of the state’s nursing home population than those of any other state, according to the report.

Routinely using drugs inappropriately to tranquilize patients who are difficult to manage is a nightmarish scenario that must stop.

Legislation pending in the state House would crack down on the practice.

Except in emergency situations where the patient is a danger to himself or others, Senate Bill 142 would prohibit nursing homes from giving antipsychotics to patients unless there is a proper diagnosis and prescription in place. For patients who weren’t on prescribed antipsychotics when they were admitted to their nursing home, clinicians must document that other nonpharmacological methods were tried unsuccessfully before writing a prescription.

Nursing home patients receiving antipsychotic prescriptions or their legal guardian must give written informed consent for the drugs’ use; patients can’t be kicked out of a nursing home for refusing consent, under the measure.

The head of a nursing home trade group that represents about 200 long-term care facilities said his group isn’t opposed to the measure.

“It is an issue we have been working hard to improve for a number of years,” said Nico Gomez, president and CEO of Care Providers Oklahoma.

Sean Voskuhl, AARP Oklahoma director, said the practice of sedating seniors without appropriate medical justification is “immoral,” and we agree.

It’s the stuff of a Hollywood horror movie, not the proper way to run a long-term health care facility.

SB 142 should be approved, and the agencies that regulate state nursing homes should go to work to make sure its provisions are being enforced.

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