Concurrent reductions in psychotropic medication, assault, and physical restraint in two residential treatment programs for youth

Christopher Bellonci, Jonathan C. Huefner, Annette K. Griffith, Georgi Vogel-Rosen, Gail L. Smith, Scott Preston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Over the past decade, the level of clinical needs of youth in residential treatment has increased significantly. Youth in out-of-home settings typically experience higher levels of psychotropic medication use than their peers living at home, even when controlling for the severity of clinical issues. The purpose of the current study was to examine the effects of an approach to clinically reassess psychotropic medication utilization for youth residing in residential treatment settings while also observing the impact on the youth's need for physical containment. Medication changes were based on a data-informed process, using input from a multi-disciplinary treatment team. Data for 531 youth who were consecutively admitted to one of two non-affiliated intensive residential treatment programs, one in the Midwest and one in New England, was analyzed. Over half of these youth (n. =. 292, 55%) had their medications reduced during their stay and only 14% (n. =. 76) were prescribed more medication at discharge than they had been taking at admission. The remainder either saw no change during their stay (n. =. 104, 20%) or were never on medication at any time (n. =. 59, 11%). From admission to discharge there was a 62% decrease in the number of assaultive incidents as well as a 72% decrease in the use of physical restraints. These results support the view that residential treatment can provide a treatment milieu that allows for thoughtful reassessment of the clinical basis for behavioral disorders in children that can achieve the dual goals of medication reduction and behavioral stabilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1773-1779
Number of pages7
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Physical assault
  • Physical restraint
  • Psychotropic medication
  • Residential treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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