Regulatory environment and psychotropic use in board-and-care facilities: Results of a 10-state study

Diana Spore, Brown University
Vincent Mor, Brown University
E. Paul Larrat, University of Rhode Island
Jeffrey Hiris, Brown University
Catherine Hawes, RTI International


Background. Largely unsupervised administration of drugs and the potential for overuse of psychotropic agents in residential care facilities have emerged as major public policy concerns. In a large multistate study, we examined patterns of psychotropic prescription and use by facility licensure status and the extensiveness of state regulations. Methods. Descriptive analyses were based on a sample of 2,949 residents from 493 board-and-care facilities in to states, drawn via a complex, multistage sampling design. States were purposively selected based on the stringency of their board-and- care regulatory system, and samples of facilities were drawn, stratified by licensure status and home size. Residents, were randomly selected within the sampled facilities. Weighted analyses were performed with Software for Survey Data Analysis (SUDAAN), accounting for the complex sampling design. Results. Approximately 43% of the residents were prescribed and 41% used at least one psychotropic agent, primarily on a routinely scheduled basis. Antipsychotics were prescribed to 22% and used by 21%; antidepressants were prescribed to 17% and taken by 16%; antimanic agents were prescribed to and used by 4%; and anxiolytics, sedatives, or hypnotics were prescribed to 17% and used by 14%. Among psychotropic users, over 50% had not had mental health services in the prior year: 25% had no psychiatric history. Among licensed facilities, prescription and use of psychotropics, particularly antipsychotics, was significantly higher among residents of homes located in states with limited regulatory systems. Conclusions. Results revealed high rates of psychotropic prescription and use, and not inconsequential levels of polypharmacy - within and across therapeutic classes - among board-and-care facility residents. Frequently, psychotropics were not used as an adjunct to alternative treatments, and were not associated with a psychiatric history. Extent of psychotropic use was related to the regulatory environment, suggesting that more extensive regulations and monitoring may reduce psychoactive drug use in board-and-care facilities, and more adequately ensure the appropriateness of such treatment.