David Cohen Offers Policy Suggestions for Protecting Foster Youth Social Welfare professor explains how to stem the tide of psychotropic drug prescriptions to children in foster care.


In November, UCLA Luskin Professor David Cohen was quoted in an ongoing investigative series by the San Jose Mercury News and Bay Area News Group on psychiatric drugs and foster youth.

In the third reported piece in the investigation titled “The Rx Alliance That Drugs Our Kids,” the San Jose Mercury News reveals that nearly 1 of every 4 adolescents in California’s foster care system are prescribed psychiatric drugs to control their behavior. That is more than three times the rate for adolescents nationwide. Often, the drugs that are prescribed are untested or not approved for children.

The investigation also showcased the relationship between the foster care prescribers and pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceutical companies are spending millions of dollars to influence physicians who prescribe psychiatric medications to California children in foster care. The article explains that foster care prescribers earn nearly twice as much than the typical California doctor, with the highest paid doctors ranging from child psychiatrists to researchers at universities. The bulk of the payments fund drug company-sponsored research.

Professor Cohen noted that this incentive from pharmaceutical companies may be a motivating factor for some doctors.

“These figures suggest these doctors are not looking out primarily for the kids’ interests…but are looking out for their financial interests, and we should all be wary,” he said.

“The experimentation, the drug cocktails, the first-line drugging typically starts with the group that’s the least protected — and foster kids are at the bottom of the ladder in our society and so it’s easier to do this to them.”

Last week, as a follow-up to this article, Cohen offered some policy suggestions in California Healthline, for how to deal with the situation.

His policy proposals are:

1. The Department of Social Services should publish every quarter the percentage of children in foster care and other residential settings under state care who receive one or more prescriptions for psychotropic drugs. This publicly funded aggregated data has obvious public health relevance and no confidentiality concerns exist.

2. Any payment to a physician from a drug company is a payment for good services rendered (i.e., increasing a company’s revenues by enticing physicians to write prescriptions to foster children publicly reimbursed through Medicaid). Consumer bureaus should develop lists of physicians who do not accept funding of any kind from pharmaceutical companies. The medical licensing board should require physicians to display prominent signs in their waiting rooms informing patients about their drug industry funding.

 3. Alaska attorney Jim Gottstein has argued that cocktails of antipsychotics for behavior problems of children are prescriptions for non-medically indicated reasons and thus constitute false claims for Medicaid reimbursement according its own rules. If so, California Medi-Cal might just wish to obey federal law: screen those prescriptions properly and refuse to reimburse them (and kindly notify prescribers that they are breaking the law).

4. The executives of pharmaceutical companies found to have engaged in illegal marketing of their products should be held criminally responsible rather than their companies just paying fines as the cost of doing business (like $10.4 billion in 74 court judgments and settlements between 2010 and 2012).

5. Child welfare workers and juvenile court judges have an ethical duty to inform themselves responsibly about the drugs they encourage and sometimes compel non-consenting children to take. The drug industry floods the market with studies purporting to show short-term improvement in symptoms while it studiously under-documents harms and long-term consequences. Perhaps these officials should be held responsible when things go wrong, not just given a free pass because they don’t prescribe.

6. A stable foster placement matters for a child’s well-being, thus child welfare workers may understandably refer a child for a medication evaluation in order to avoid interrupting the placement. But psychological and behavioral instabilities shown by maltreated or neglected children are normal reactions to adversity, not mental illnesses to medicalize. A severe or delayed reaction to maltreatment does not automatically justify a prescription; it requires even more personal, individual attention given to a child.


Ananya Roy to direct new UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy Appointment effective July 1, 2015.


International development scholar Ananya Roy will lead a new institute examining inequality and democracy at UCLA Luskin as its inaugural director, Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., announced today. Roy’s appointment is effective July 1, 2015.

Roy’s charge at the new institute will be to oversee a multifaceted program of research, training, and public outreach operating at the nexus of democracy, social justice and governance/political participation. The project is a major initiative of UCLA Luskin’s five-point strategic plan, adopted in the wake of the $50 million naming gift from Meyer and Renee Luskin to UCLA’s School of Public Affairs in 2011.

Roy comes to UCLA from the University of California, Berkeley, where she served as a professor of city and regional planning and distinguished chair in global poverty and practice. She was also the education director at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. In 2010 The New Yorker called her “one of Berkeley’s star teachers,” and in 2006 she earned the Distinguished Teaching Award, the college’s highest faculty teaching honor, and the Distinguished Faculty Mentorship Award.

“I am thrilled to welcome Ananya to UCLA Luskin as the head of the institute,” Dean Gilliam said. “Her creativity, collaborative spirit and impeccable academic credentials are an exact match for the positive change inherent in this new endeavor, and I know she will serve as an inspiration to our faculty and students.”

With research interests ranging from social theory to comparative urban studies, Roy has dedicated much of her scholarship to exploring and understanding the formation of geopolitical hierarchies. Her book Poverty Capital: Microfinance and the Making of Development won the 2011 Paul Davidoff Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, given for books that promote participatory planning and positive social change. She is also the author of City Requiem, Calcutta: Gender and the Politics of Poverty and co-editor of Urban Informality: Transnational Perspectives from the Middle East, South Asia, and Latin America; The Practice of International Health; and Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global.

Projects under her direction have received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Social Sciences Research Council, the Ford Foundation, USAID and others. Roy’s service on editorial boards includes the publications Public Culture and Territory, Politics and Governance, among many others.

As the institute builds an interdisciplinary approach to solving societal problems and leveraging the work of our three departments and across the campus, Roy’s previous experience at the University of California will play a key role. As the founding chair of Berkeley’s undergraduate program in global poverty and practice, she led a field of study that brings together hundreds of students from over 30 majors to understand the challenges of global poverty through creativity and practical experience. She also served as chair of the urban studies major, which takes a holistic approach to designing a new, humane approach to urbanism for a global populace.

At UCLA Luskin, Roy will hold an endowed chair provided by Meyer and Renee Luskin. Born in Calcutta, she earned her master’s and doctoral degrees at Berkeley and took her bachelor’s at Mills College.

Fellowship Opens Doors to Reagan Archives As recipient of the inaugural Ronald Reagan Public Policy Fellowship, Anthony Rodriguez is gaining an up-close view of the workings of government


By Alejandra Reyes-Velarde
UCLA Luskin Student Writer

Anthony Rodriguez was in the village of Mukuwila, Zambia, when he received the call offering him an interview for the Ronald Reagan Public Policy Fellowship. After two years of serving in the Peace Corps, Rodriguez was ready to begin working at a private investment firm in the summer months before he started his master’s degree program at UCLA. However, he decided to fly to Los Angeles early to seize this opportunity instead.

The first-year Public Policy master’s student was the first to be awarded the new fellowship consisting of a two-year $30,000 scholarship at UCLA Luskin through the Ronald Reagan Foundation.

As a fellow, Rodriguez will be studying the effects of Ronald Reagan’s economic, social and international policies on the state of California and the Federal government. In addition, he will have access to the archives at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and will be working on projects such as creating resources for teachers and students available on the Foundation website.

After Rodriguez graduated from California State University Northridge with a bachelor’s degree in business law in 2011, he joined the Peace Corps and for two years worked primarily in the food sustainability field in Zambia.

“We introduced fish ponds to the village where people could take the byproduct from the maize and other crops to use it as input for the fish to create a good source of protein,” he said.

During his time with the Peace Corps, Rodriguez was able to use his marketing skills to promote small-scale businesses. He also taught about HIV awareness at local schools and introduced solar lights to the village, which previously had no electricity.

His current academic focus is in public policy with a concentration in monetary policy and macroeconomics.

“I chose UCLA because of the flexibility they allow students in creating their own concentration,” he said. “When I read about the Reagan scholarship I thought it was a perfect partnership between what I want to study and an era in American history when monetary policy played a huge role.”

Rodriguez said he feels a sense of duty to his country and to serve the public. His decision to join the Peace Corps and study public policy was inspired by his father who served in the United State Air Force and his grandfather who served in the Nicaraguan military.

His interest in history, particularly as it relates to monetary policy during the Reagan administration, started early when he was a child.

“My Dad and I would always watch Jeopardy and I would play Trivial Pursuit with my three sisters,” he said. “When I was in the Peace Corps, I became more interested in reading about the period during the late 70s and 80s which were times of depressions and recessions.”

In the future, Rodriguez hopes to apply for a summer internship with the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund.

“Upon graduating I’d like to have a job with an international macro organization such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank or the United Nations. I am also not opposed to working domestically for the Treasury or for the Federal Reserve,” he said.

This year, however, Rodriguez said he wants to focus on learning the fundamentals of the public policy program and being a part of the Reagan Foundation.

“At the foundation, we have some projects going on this year including the Great Communicator Debate Series, which is a nationwide debate competition for high school students. We are also working on a project to submit AP questions for high school students about history and micro or macroeconomics,” he said.

Rodriguez said he is enjoying being exposed to many intelligent individuals including politicians like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and former defense secretary Robert Gates.

“This has allowed me to interact with people with really impressive resumes and with leaders of our country. That’s what I hope to be someday as well,” he said.

Rodriguez said he has worked extra hard to keep up with his classmates, but he thinks it will benefit him in the long run.

“There is an interesting dynamic of people from all over the world. It’s almost intimidating how educated this class is. But that’s how you become stronger,” he said.

Season of Service Opens Discussion on Homelessness Luskin hosts series of panels to discuss homelessness in Los Angeles


By Alejandra Reyes-Velarde
UCLA Luskin student writer

As part of the Season of Service series, which highlights projects that aid underserved populations, the Luskin School of Public Affairs hosted two recent events where panelists discussed how organizations can contribute to a solution to homelessness in the Los Angeles region.

Panelists included representatives of local organizations and of the UCLA community committed to changing the lives of those in chronic homelessness.

On Oct. 28 an event titled “Nowhere to Call Home” focused on the issue of homeless youth.

Though Los Angeles has the highest homeless population in the nation and there have been efforts to find solutions to veteran and chronic homelessness, homeless youth are often overlooked. Homeless youth are defined as individuals between the ages of 13 and 24 who live on the streets, in shelters or who “couchsurf” in homes of friends and family.

The panelists discussed the causes and challenges that homeless youth encounter in particular. For many young people, family conflicts lead them to run away from their homes. The discussion also included interesting facts such as 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

Homeless youth are also less likely to welcome traditional services, often focused on the adult homeless population, which raises a need for services that target youth.

The discussion focused on efforts by service providers and housing agencies to move from transitional housing to permanent housing in a “Housing First” model, explained by Andrea Marchetti, the executive director of Jovenes, Inc.

Finding permanent housing solutions was also discussed on Tuesday night with a panel titled “New Ideas in Coordinated Entry.” The discussion centered on how the fairly new Coordinated Entry System process is a way to connect homeless populations to housing organizations in a quick and efficient way.

The Season of Service series will continue to explore solutions to these problems and other projects in upcoming events. On Thursday, Nov. 13, the Luskin School will be hosting an event on homelessness as a housing problem. This panel will look at housing from an urban planning prospective and explore the challenge of affordable housing.

On Saturday, Nov. 15, UCLA Luskin is participating in United Way’s HomeWalk 2014 – a 5K run/walk to end homelessness. It is not too late to join the UCLA Luskin team, donate and/or keep fundraising! For information on joining the UCLA Luskin team for HomeWalk 2014, contact Tammy Borrero at tborrero@luskin.ucla.edu. For more information on HomeWalk, visit www.homewalkla.org.

Public Policy students Elizabeth Swain and Edith Medina Huarita contributed to this story. 


Mentorship Program Gives Students Access to Practitioners


By Angel Ibanez
UCLA Luskin student writer

For over 15 years, the Senior Fellows Leadership Program has been helping to prepare students for careers as change agents in the world by pairing them with leaders in the field as mentors.

Senior Fellows, who volunteer their time to meet with students across the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs’ three departments, work in diverse fields. Their backgrounds range from policy makers and business professionals to nonprofit executives and community leaders.

This year, the program welcomes six new senior fellows to the class. This includes: A. Barry Rand, CEO of the AARP; William Fujioka, Los Angeles County Chief Executive Officer; Mary McNeil, Senior Operations Officer and Team Lead of Global Governance Practice at the World Bank; Thomas Epstein, Vice President of Public Affairs, Blue Shield of California; Michael C. Camuñez, President and CEO of ManattJones Global Strategies; and Michelle G. Los Banos, Diplomat in Residence and foreign officer with the U.S. State Department.

For VC Powe, executive director of External Programs, the impressive resumes of the new senior fellows is a testament to the reputation of the program.

“We’re honored to have these new senior fellows in our program who will teach and guide our students,” she said. “But we’re also grateful to have a long list of returning fellows as well. Since 1998, we’ve had over 20 senior fellows return each year to participate again. It’s a tribute to how strongly they believe in it.”

Through year-long, one-on-one mentorships, students learn leadership and professional development skills, while learning about opportunities for internships and networking. Not to mention gaining solid career advice from people with highly successful careers.

City of Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell has been a senior fellow for two years. His choice to participate another year is in part because he says meeting students benefits the mentors as well. Students bring a “fresh set of eyes” that can help a “mentor tap into fresh approaches they haven’t thought of before,” he said. In addition, mentorship can help to train the next generation of professionals in various fields that are making an impact.

McDonnell highly encourages his peers to participate in the program, which he says is “a model for what can be done when you take some of the best and the brightest and ensure they are going in the right direction in the field you are in.” He was the keynote speaker at this year’s annual Senior Fellows Breakfast where students meet their mentors for the first time.

Public Policy student Rhianon Anderson is in her second year as a participant of the Senior Fellows porgram. This year she has been paired with Steve Soboroff, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission.

Anderson said she has hoped to be matched with Soboroff because he is successful in both public sector and private sector work – which is what she wants to do when she graduates.

“This program gives you absolutely unparalleled access to practitioners in the field. It’s the kind of access that you don’t get just in the classroom,” she said. “It’s ideal to have these complementary components: academic learning in the classroom and access to practitioners from whom you learn real life lessons.”

First year student Keren Mahgerefteh said she knew about the program prior to enrolling, and made it a point to attend the informational session once she got in. After seeing the name of her Senior Fellow, Thomas Epstein, on the list of possible mentors, Mahgerefteh decided to apply. Epstein’s experience matched up with what she hopes to do in the future.

“I’m looking to see how it is to have a day on the job in health policy, see what Mr. Epstein does day-to-day and how I can get to where he is in the future,” she said.

This is Epstein’s (JD ’76) first year serving as a Senior Fellow and he said he’s looking forward having meaningful conversations with students. He has experience both as a government affairs and communications leader for the Public Broadcasting Service and the Disney Channel, as well as experience working in politics as former special assistant to President Bill Clinton.

“I hope to be able to learn from the students and hear what they’re thinking about and also be able to give them some career guidance,” he said. “I have very broad interests from health and politics to philanthropy, so hopefully it’s a wide range of things that we all discuss and learn from each other.”

The Do’s and Don’ts of Professional Etiquette Urban Planning alumnus Jonathan P. Bell will lead a workshop for all UCLA Luskin students on October 20.


By Alejandra Reyes-Velarde, UCLA Luskin student writer

Urban Planning alumnus Jonathan Pacheco Bell will be leading a professional etiquette workshop on Oct. 20 for UCLA Luskin students seeking to make themselves more competitive in the job market.

Bell, who earned his masters degree in urban planning in 2005, has worked in the field for seven years. He is currently working for the Advance Planning Division of the County of Los Angeles’ Department of Regional Planning. He will share his employment experiences and cover topics like communication, networking and nonverbal cues.

“Proper professional etiquette will make or break your chances with potential employers,” Bell said. “This should seem obvious, yet some students discount the importance of etiquette and end up being memorable for the wrong reasons.”

The workshop, which Bell said will cover the “do’s and don’ts of professional etiquette,” aims to give students an advantage in obtaining jobs, internships, scholarships and other work experiences that will help them be successful in the workforce.

Career Services director Michelle Anderson said it is extremely helpful for students to know the rules of etiquette when entering the professional world and even when encountering opportunities while they are in school.

“Students are interacting with high-level individuals and having professional exchanges everyday. Whether it is speaking with a professor and employers or attending events or speeches, it is important for students to know what to do and how to present themselves,” Anderson said.

The workshop will be held from 4-6 p.m. in room 2343 in the Luskin School of Public Affairs. Food will be provided for attendees. The workshop is mandatory for students in the Alumni Leader’s Academy, but students seeking summer jobs or internships are strongly encouraged to attend. RSVP to careers@luskin.ucla.edu.

Why Blaming Health Care Workers Who Get Ebola Is Wrong Public policy professor John Villasenor argues that data and statistical methods can protect health workers.

Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed on Oct. 12 that a Texas health care worker tested positive for Ebola, media outlets have reported that health officials are now “scrambling” to find out how she contracted the disease despite wearing protective gear. According to the head of the CDC, the infection was caused by a “breach in protocol” that officials are working to identify.

Public Policy professor John Villasenor argues in an article published on Forbes.com that while working to identify weak links in protocol is important, blaming the health worker for breaching protocol ignores the fact that, statistically, having multiple contacts with Ebola patients will lead to an inevitable “limited number of transmissions to health workers.”

He writes:

“This is because if you do something once that has a very low probability of a very negative consequence, your risks of harm are low. But if you repeat that activity many times, the laws of probability—or more specifically, a formula called the “binomial distribution”—will eventually catch up with you.

For example, consider an activity that, each time you do it, has a 1% chance of exposing you to a highly dangerous chemical. If you do it once, you have a 1% chance of exposure. If you do it twice, your chances of at least one exposure are slightly under 2%. After 20 times, you have an 18% chance of at least one exposure, and after 69 times the exposure probability crosses above 50%. After 250 times, the odds of exposure are about 92%. And the exposure odds top 99% after about 460 times.

In other words, even if the probabilities are strongly stacked in your favor if you do the activity only once, with repetition the probabilities flip against you.”

Villasenor ends his article by offering three recommendations for how to analyze this situation, including avoiding assumptions. You can read the full article here.

In another piece published in Slate on Oct. 15, Villasenor asserts that big data should be used as a “core component of the strategy” to protect health workers from Ebola exposure. Big data and statistical methods are vital in analyzing how Ebola can spread and shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought, he says.

Villasenor urges health officials to collect data about interactions between health workers and Ebola patients, and develop protocol for simulations so that health workers can practice using and removing protective gear.

He concludes:

“Big data and statistics alone aren’t going to keep health workers safe from Ebola. But they can certainly help. If we are going to ask health workers to repeatedly step into rooms with patients contagious with a virus that now appears to have a fatality rate of about 70 percent, we have the obligation to do everything possible to minimize the chances that they might be exposed. And today, we’re not doing nearly enough.”

Newton to Write on Region’s Civic Life for UCLA Luskin The Los Angeles Times journalist begins a new role designed to deepen UCLA's ties to the region's civic life

newton_slideVeteran journalist and author Jim Newton will join the faculty and staff of UCLA in a new role designed to deepen UCLA’s ties to the civic life of Los Angeles and the region.

Newton, is best known for his 25-year career at the Los Angeles Times, where he spent time as a reporter, editor, bureau chief, editorial page editor and columnist.

In his enhanced role, Newton’s first project will be to develop and launch a new quarterly university journal highlighting UCLA research in fields that are particularly relevant to Southern California. The journal will also highlight our region’s leading institutions and influential figures. The journal will serve as the centerpiece of a series of public events. It will be housed in the Luskin School of Public Affairs and jointly published with External Affairs Public Outreach.

Newton will also serve as an advisor for other UCLA public outreach programs, for which he has appeared several times as a moderator or panelist in recent years. At the same time, he will take on an increased teaching load in the Communication Studies Department, where he has taught journalistic ethics since 2010. In addition to that course, Newton will begin teaching a special course in writing starting next year. He will continue to serve as a UCLA Luskin Senior Fellow, a distinction he has held since 2008, mentoring and engaging graduate students in Los Angeles’ civic life.

In addition to his career as a newspaperman and academic, Newton is also an author, well-known for his biographies of California governor and Chief Justice Earl Warren (“Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made,” Riverhead, 2006) and President Dwight Eisenhower (“Eisenhower: The White House Years,” Doubleday, 2011), a national best-seller. His next book, which he co-authored with former CIA Chief and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, is being released this week.

Alumna Jaime Nack Discusses Female Entrepreneurs at the White House The Public Policy graduate met senior White House staff to discuss women’s leadership in business.


Public Policy alumna Jaime Nack (MPP ’02) was at the White House on September 24 to join fellow National Women’s Business Council Members for briefings with senior White House staff and representatives from Congress to discuss policies that impact women entrepreneurs and business owners.

Nack, who is founder and president of environmental consulting firm Three Squares Inc., participated in the briefings as the youngest member of the Council and represented entrepreneurs under the age of 40. She also contributed her expertise in the arenas of clean technology and environmental consulting.

“It is an honor to serve on the Council and work to build out an ecosystem that encourages economic growth for women entrepreneurs,” Nack said in a press release. “The government has the ability to further spur business growth and it is encouraging to see legislature like Senate Bill 2693 – The Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2014 – which supports the efforts of the 8.6 million women-owned small businesses across the country by providing women’s small business counseling, small business contracting, and access to capital.”

The National Women’s Business Council is charged with serving as an independent source of advice and counsel to the President, Congress, and the U.S. Small Business Administration on economic issues important to women business owners. Members of the Council are prominent business owners and leaders of women’s business organizations.

Nack is a two-time UCLA Bruin. She holds a master’s degree in Public Policy, as well as a bachelor’s degree in International Economics with a minor in Urban Planning.

“The network I created at UCLA was instrumental in launching a career that has led me from corporate strategy sessions to White House environmental briefings,” Nack has said. “I’m incredibly thankful.”

UCLA Luskin Welcomes New Diplomat in Residence Michelle G. Los Banos represents the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Foreign Service.


Foreign Service Officer Michelle G. Los Banos will serve as UCLA’s new Diplomat in Residence for the 2014 – 2016 academic years. She was appointed by the U.S. Department of State to serve as Diplomat in Residence for Southern California and Hawaii and will be housed in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

Los Banos will serve as a resource to students and graduates interested in working in the Foreign Service and at the Department of State.  She will be attending career fairs and conferences, as well as holding informational sessions and meetings with students by appointment.

In addition to her duties as Diplomat in Residence, Los Banos will also serve the Luskin School of Public Affairs as a Senior Fellow mentoring students from across all three departments.

“I am extremely excited to support my organization and help strengthen our future diplomatic corps by recruiting talented and diverse individuals to work for the State Department,” Los Banos said. “Being a Senior Fellow and getting to work with students who might share similar interests is also very exciting. It will give me a chance to share the experience and knowledge that I’ve gained in the world of diplomacy with someone who might be passionate about public service.”

Los Banos holds a Master in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. Her 12-year career in the Foreign Service has taken her to Ankara, Turkey; Managua, Nicaragua; Rome, Italy; as well as State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C, where she most recently served as Deputy Division Chief in the Cultural Programs Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Banos is also excited to be back in her home state.

“We are honored to have Ms. Los Banos join us here at Luskin,” said Dean Franklin D. Gilliam. “It has been our privilege to host Diplomats in Residence since 1998. Ms. Los Banos’ unique skills and experiences will be a valuable resource to our students who are dedicated to making an impact both locally and globally.”

For information about all upcoming events Los Banos will hold at UCLA and in the greater Los Angeles area, follow her on Facebook – DOS Diplomat in Residence Southern California. For individual or group appointments, you can email her at DIRSouthernCalifornia@state.gov.