19
Aug
2004

ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST

From: Swftl@aol.com
Subject: {Slick-D}
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2004 16:01:18 EDT

Does your child shrink from strangers? Speak at inappropriate times? Seem easily distracted? If so, they may soon face government-ordered, forced medication.

In April 2002, President Bush passed an Executive Order that established the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, to conduct a "comprehensive study of the United States mental health service delivery system." One of the initiative's major objectives is to identify and treat mental illness in school children because "despite their prevalence, mental disorders often go undiagnosed," leading to "young children [being] expelled from preschools and childcare facilities for severely disruptive behaviors and emotional disorders."

Says the commission, "Each year, young children are expelled from preschools and childcare facilities for severely disruptive behaviors and emotional disorders." The committee's solution? Nationwide mental health testing for all children and the prescription of "specific medications for specific conditions" should a kid's psychological wellness not be up to par.

Unfortunately, the American Psychiatric Association's idea of "specific conditions" could include everything from acting shy ("avoidant personality disorder") to bragging ("narcissistic personality disorder").

As Governor's State University psychologist Helen Timpone recently wrote in an Illinois Leader editorial, "Attempting to screen children for possible mental health challenges would be mind-boggling." The occasion for Timpone's warning: last week, Illinois jumped the gun and followed the commission's suggestion by implementing comprehensive mental health screenings for children between the ages of 0-18, called the Children's Mental Health Act, signed into law last spring.

Public forums on the Act held this summer were mobbed by parents concerned at the prospect of being forced to medicate their children should the kids be deemed "abnormal" by mental health tests. "Evaluating mental conditions is not based on scientific evidence, it's subjective," said Larry Trainor, father of four and a member of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, speaking to the Illinois Leader. "What if they find a student has a math disorder, a reading disorder? Would that... cause the parents to put their children with a drug?"

A concern that may have some validity: in a May 2003 press release by the Committee on Education and the Workforce, Katherine Bryson, a State Legislator from Utah, warns that "school personnel faced with children who often have not been properly taught to read, who may be coming to school on a breakfast of sugar or no breakfast at all, who could be affected by lead, mercury or other toxic substances... are assessing them in the classroom as having a ˜learning disorder' or [ADHD]. From here, parents are being coerced into drugging their child with threats of the child's expulsion or charges of medical neglect by Child Protective Services against the parents."

"Parents are losing their right to choose," says Bryson. "They are being told that ADHD is a ˜neurobiological' disorder when even the Surgeon General's 1999 report on mental health cannot confirm this. They are being denied access to tutoring or additional educational services for the sake of a 'quick fix'
drug like Ritalin that some studies say is more potent than cocaine."

A recent CNN report stated that already an estimated 6 million American children take Ritalin every day--up 500% from 1990. That doesn't even include other stimulants or antidepressants. Should mandatory mental screening spread nationwide, we may well see an unprecedented, epidemic jolt of ADHD and depression that (of course) will have to be "treated accordingly".

Which is, if not in the best interest of our children, at least in someone's best interest. Pennsylvania government worker Allen Jones revealed in May that officials controlling the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP), a psychological screening initiative held up as a model for President Bush's New Freedom plan, had received cash and perks from drug companies whose products the program prescribes.

Jones told the British Medical Journal and the New York Times that a "political/pharmaceutical alliance," is "poised to consolidate the TMAP effort into a comprehensive national policy to treat mental illness with expensive, patented medications of questionable benefit and deadly side effects, and to force private insurers to pick up the tab." He was subsequently fired from his position.

News of a tie between big drug companies and the government doesn't come as much of a surprise--after all, the pharmaceutical industry has one of the most powerful lobbies in the U.S. Pharmaceutical firms have contributed a combined
$764,274 to President Bush's 2004 election campaign--more than five times what they've given to the Kerry coffers. And George Bush Sr. sat on the board of directors for drug giant Eli Lilly whose CEO was recently appointed to the Homeland Security Council.

Aside from wrong diagnoses, another concern is the stigmatization of children who have been identified as having problems. Once diagnosed, the label "mental disorder" could easily remain in a child's records throughout its school years... and maybe beyond.

Some Illinois parents have vowed to challenge their children's health screens in court, or to even leave the state if the program goes ahead. "This is just one more step in the state separating the parent from the child," Larry Witherspoon, a concerned father, told newswithviews.com. "Good-bye, Nazi Illinois."

Faced with such opposition, the State has backpedaled somewhat from its original plan to require schools to conduct psychological evaluations. "We realized that we weren't as explicit as we need to be," told Barbara Shaw, chair of a task force hammering out the program's details, the Suburban Chicago News. "The screenings that we are discussing are voluntary. We would encourage that screenings happen, but we won't require it."

Skeptics have a different view: Karen Hayes, associate director of Concerned Women for America of Illinois, a public policy women's organization, says, "They kept telling us at the hearing that it was voluntary. But the minute you put those health standards into learning standards, you've ceased to make them voluntary."

On June 22, 2004 the House Appropriations Committee doled out $20 million for 'State Incentive Transformation Grants' to begin implementing the New Freedom Initiative nationwide. The Bill passed the Labor HHS Appropriations Committee on July 14, but hasn't been voted on by the House or the Senate yet.

If you feel you should do something about it, call upon your state representatives to vote against the bill--and for the Child Medication Safety Act, which would prohibit schools from bullying parents into medicating their kids as a condition for attending school.


Informant: Kathy
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