- by Karen Hayes, associate director of
Concerned Women for America-Illinois
|If Illinois' Children’s Mental
Health Partnership Preliminary Plan goes into effect as
planned next year, standardized academic tests will include
mental health evaluation.|
[On Friday, a
task force assigned to hear public opinion on Illinois Children’s
Mental Health Partnership Preliminary Plan will conclude its public
opinion period. Having held forums throughout the state this week,
the final hearing is to be held Friday in Chicago.
OPINION -- Until recently, the question of where
responsibility lies for raising children has been with parents and,
with few exceptions, beyond the parameters of state authority. The
United States Supreme Court has clearly upheld parents’ rights to
direct the health, education and welfare of their children.
Government assistance in the form of various social services has
been offered on a voluntary basis to families in need over the
years. This assistance has been heavily funded by taxpayers and was
intended to supplement religious and other private institutional
help available to needy families.
Sometimes it works; often it doesn’t.
The draft government plan before us today, however, goes far
beyond any previous statutory role we have seen to date. Proposing
that state government set mental health competency standards for all
Illinois pregnant women and children to age 18 stuns human
Many of us well remember the public outcry and rejection of
well-intentioned, but misguided federal government plans for social
restructuring such as Goals 2000, school-to-work and universal
Now we are being asked to go from outcome based education to
outcome based mental health.
We are here reviewing one of the largest recent attempts by the
state to subvert, devalue and undermine parental authority in
Illinois. “Subvert” sounds harsh, and we recognize that many hours
have been spent by many well-meaning people to draft this 26 page
plan. No disrespect is meant, but our concerns must be presented.
These concerns include, but are not limited to:
1) This plan will enormously expand state government. From both
social and fiscal points of view, this is a serious concern. Our
government bureaucracies continue to struggle with the job of
tending to the social needs of needy Illinois families, and are
constantly challenged in their task of trying to educate our
children in basic academics. How is it that these same bureaucracies
can now be asked to take on the additional role of being the mental
health evaluator and caretaker of all pregnant women and children in
2) This plan will place another heavy burden on the backs of
taxpayers since the state cannot afford to implement it. At a time
when budget concerns are on the front pages of most Illinois
newspapers, we are being asked to give input to one of the costliest
expansions of government and bureaucracy we have seen in recent
3) This proposed plan is rife with terms that beg definition.
Whose will prevail? This plan is 26 pages of vague and subjective
rhetoric that is the groundwork for citizen indoctrination by more
out of control government bureaucracy while creating a special
interest group bonanza.
4) There is no accountability attached to this plan whatsoever.
Simply put, since social and emotional health is subjective in
nature, it is impossible to judge the social and emotional health of
the plan itself. We will not know in ten years whether or not our
children have been helped or harmed by such an overreaching state
mental health intervention system.
5) This mandatory program challenges the U.S. Supreme Court’s
protection of parental authority by usurping parental determinations
of their own children’s health, welfare and education.
6) The plan to assess the mental health of all school-aged
children through the Illinois State Board of Education is foolhardy
at best, and outrageous beyond that.
7) The recommendation that the state “ensure that all Illinois
school districts develop a policy for incorporating social and
emotional development into the district’s education program” is
unworkable and inappropriate.
8) Taxpayers generally do not want the government to spend their
hard-earned dollars on a public relations campaign to convince them
to spend more money on government bureaucracy.
9) Expanding the number of Medicaid/KidCare application agents
was of special interest to those of us who reviewed this draft
document in light of the Operation Push scandal a few years ago.
Operation Push reportedly was paid by the state with taxpayer money
and exorbitant fees to go find children to enroll.
10) Recommending the creation of “incentives that encourage local
taxation” is another recommendation that certainly deserves
11) This proposal calls for collection of mental health data of
women and children, together with bureaucratic linkage of this
12) The recommendation to “explore strategies for maximizing the
purchase of psychotropic drugs…at discounted prices” seems to give
us an incredible look at where this task force thinks Illinois
children are headed at a bargain rate.
In summary, it is neither beneficial to children, nor to
taxpayers, to ask government bureaucracies to set competency
standards for mental health. With some amount of lightheartedness,
may I propose that the mental health of the perpetrators of this
concept be evaluated?
[Karen Hayes is Illinois' associate director of
Concerned Women for America (CWA), the nation’s largest
public policy women’s organization.]
Mental Health task force hearings continue through Friday
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
launches compulsory mental health screening for children and
pregnant women Monday, July 19, 2004
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