Illinois recently gained national and international attention as
the first state to put into law a template for mental health
screening that could become a national model for government mandated
“evidence-based practices screening" for emotional and social
disorders for the state’s children.
But now, some state legislators are expressing concern that those
putting the law into practice are either over-reaching its original
intent, or the language of the law is problematic.
Last August, Governor Rod Blagojevich signed the
Illinois Children’s Health Act of 2003. It stated in part:
The State of Illinois shall develop a Children’s
Mental Health Plan containing short-term and long-term
recommendations to provide comprehensive, coordinated mental
health prevention, early intervention, and treatment services for
children from birth through age 18.
The Act stipulated the creation of the Illinois Children’s
Mental Health Partnership, which is to submit a preliminary plan
of action to the Governor
on September 30. The Partnership reports directly to the
Last month, the Partnership held a series of public hearings
around the state to unveil its plan. Recommendations included
screening all pregnant women for depression, with in-home visit
It is the Partnership’s recommendations that began raising red
State Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Wheaton), a
co-sponsor of the original legislation, spelled out some concerns
with the plan to IllinoisLeader.com in a prepared
After reviewing the Children's Mental Health Task
Force recommendations from the preliminary report, I have serious
reservations about some of the ways the partnership is translating
the intent of the bill. There is considerable misunderstanding
about the intent….
I have strong objections to some of the recommendations:
1. I do not agree that all women should be screened for
depression during pregnancy and following the birth of a child up
to one year postpartum. I also do not agree with extending the
Medicaid coverage beyond the 60 days postpartum. There is no
mention of pregnant women in SB 1951 at all.
2. I do not agree that all children birth to age five receive
periodic developmental screens. I also do not agree with a data
reporting state system to track who is screened. This is a
violation of privacy.
3. I do not agree with requiring social-emotional development
screens with all mandated school exams (K, 4th, and 9th) or a
major transition time.
4. I do not agree with report cards on children's
social-emotional development, either.
State Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora), who along with
all 59 members of the Illinois Senate voted for the final version of
the bill, said today, “If this negative interpretation of the Act is
accurate, it is personally discouraging to me that this bill could
have gone through the hearing process with everybody voting it
forward, and none of the true implications of what this bill was all
about were understood by many of voting on it.”
Lauzen added, “I believe that the last people who should be
defining what is normal and abnormal are Springfield politicians,
Additional concerns about the Children’s Mental Health Plan
involve potential drug company involvement.
"The Children's Mental Health Act 2003 is the tip of an insidious
iceberg,” said Allen Jones, a former investigator in the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General and
the Bureau of Special Investigations.
Jones is now a federal whistleblower who monitors mental health
initiatives throughout the country.
“The pharmaceutical industry is gaining back door access to all
of our children by compromising key decision makers and by gaining
rubber stamped endorsements of groups like the Illinois Children’s
Mental Health Partnership," said Jones.
The Plan was based upon the report, “Children’s Mental Health: An
Urgent Priority for Illinois” by the Illinois Children’s Mental
Health Task Force, a group sponsored by Ounce of Prevention
and funded by The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, the
charitable arm of Johnson & Johnson and Janssen
Pharmaceutica. The Irving B. Harris Foundation is also
credited with start up contributions.
This new initiative if enacted, would make Illinois the first
state to ratify policies that align systems of care with
President Bush’s New Freedom Report.
The New Freedom Report recommends universal mental health
screening of all United States citizens, with an emphasis on school
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