Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Alan D. Poling

Second Advisor

Dr. Kristal Ehrhardt


Approximately 35-55% of individuals with mental retardation who live in the community are prescribed psychotropic and/or antiepileptic medication (Aman, Saphare, & Burrows, 1995; Singh, Guernsey, & Ellis, 1992). As more individuals with severe behavior challenges are transitioned from institutions into the community, these rates are likely to increase. Given these prevalence rates, it is important to determine whether staff who serve people with mental retardation are adequately educated about psychotropic medications. Previous studies (Aman, Singh, & White, 1987; Gadow, 1983; Singh, Epstein, Stout, Luebke, & Ellis, 1994; Singh et al., 1996) surveyed a variety of service providers in school and institutional settings and reported a pervasive lack of education and training regarding the use of psychotropic medication. Direct service staff may contribute substantially to the appropriate use and assessment of psychotropic medications for individuals with developmental disabilities, particularly for those living and/or working in the community. Given direct service staffs unique role, it appears particularly important to determine their perceptions of psychotropic medication.

The purpose of the present study was to extend the work of Singh et al. (1996) by surveying direct service staff to determine their perceptions, knowledge, and opinions regarding the use of psychotropic medication in noninstitutional settings for individuals with developmental disabilities. Participants were 334 direct service staff employed by 15 noninstitutional residential and vocational agencies in California and Michigan.

Findings of the present study were similar to those of Singh et al. (1996). The knowledge and skills deficits of direct service staff represent a barrier to the appropriate monitoring and management of pharmacotherapy for individuals with developmental disabilities. Therefore, a systematic training program to educate direct service staff about psychotropic medications needs to be designed, implemented, and disseminated on a broad scale.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access