ON CAPITOL HILL
Forced mental screening
hits roadblock in House
Rep. Ron Paul seeks to yank program, decries use of drugs on children
Posted: September 9, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, plans to offer an amendment in the House of Representatives today that would remove from an appropriations bill a new mandatory mental-health screening program for America's children.
"The American tradition of parents deciding what is best for their children is, yet again, under attack," writes Kent Snyder of the Paul-founded Liberty Committee. "The pharmaceutical industry has convinced President Bush to support mandatory mental-health screening for every child in America, including preschool children, and the industry is now working to convince Congress as well."
As WorldNetDaily reported, the New Freedom Initiative recommends screening not only for children but eventually for every American. The initiative came out of the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, which President Bush established in 2002.
Critics of the plan say it is a thinly veiled attempt by drug companies to provide a wider market for high-priced antidepressants and antipsychotic medication, and puts government in areas of Americans' lives where it does not belong.
Writes Snyder: "The real payoff for the drug companies is the forced drugging of children that will result – as we learned tragically with Ritalin – even when parents refuse."
Paul's amendment to the Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2005 would take the new program out of the funding bill.
The congressman, who is known for his strict adherence to the Constitution, wrote in a letter to his colleagues: "As you know, psychotropic drugs are increasingly prescribed for children who show nothing more than children's typical rambunctious behavior. Many children have suffered harmful effects from these drugs. Yet some parents have even been charged with child abuse for refusing to drug their children. The federal government should not promote national mental-health screening programs that will force the use of these psychotropic drugs such as Ritalin."
The New Freedom Commission found that "despite their prevalence, mental disorders often go undiagnosed" and recommended comprehensive mental-health screening for "consumers of all ages," including preschool children.
The commission said, "Each year, young children are expelled from preschools and childcare facilities for severely disruptive behaviors and emotional disorders."
Schools, the panel concluded, are in a "key position" to screen the 52 million students and 6 million adults who work at the schools.
The state of Illinois has already approved its own mental-health screening program, the Children's Mental Health Act of 2003, which will provide screening for "all children ages 0-18" and "ensure appropriate and culturally relevant assessment of your children's social and emotional development with the use of standardized tools."
Members of the Illinois Children's Mental Health Partnership have held several public hearings on the program in recent months, hearing from parents and others who oppose the mandatory screening.
Karen R. Effrem, M.D., is a physician and leading opponent of mandatory screening. She is on the board of directors of EdWatch, an organization that actively opposes federal control of education.
"I am concerned, especially in the schools, that mental health could be used as a wedge for diagnosis based on attitudes, values, beliefs and political stances – things like perceived homophobia," Effrem told WorldNetDaily.
"There are several violence-prevention programs that do say if a person is homophobic, they could be considered potentially violent."
Continued Effrem: "This mental-health program could be used as an enforcement tool to impose a very politically correct, anti-American curriculum."
Effrem emphasized the new program has no guarantees of parental rights, noting some children have died because parents were coerced to put their kids on psychiatric medications.
Snyder says the following groups have come out in opposition to the screening program: Eagle Forum, Gun Owners of America, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Concerned Women of America, Freedom 21, the Alliance for Human Research Protection, and the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology.
A screening program in Paul's home state began nearly ten years ago. The Texas Medication Algorithm Project, or TMAP, was held up by the New Freedom Commission as a "model" medication treatment plan that "illustrates an evidence-based practice that results in better consumer outcomes."
The TMAP – started in 1995 as an alliance of individuals from the pharmaceutical industry, the University of Texas and the mental health and corrections systems of Texas – also was praised by the American Psychiatric Association, which called for increased funding to implement the overall plan.
But the Texas project sparked controversy when a Pennsylvania government employee revealed state officials with influence over the plan had received money and perks from drug companies who stand to gain from it.
Allen Jones, an employee of the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector General says in his whistleblower report the "political/pharmaceutical alliance" that developed the Texas project, which promotes the use of newer, more expensive antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs, was behind the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission, which were "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 more of the tab."
Jones points out, according to a British Medical Journal report, companies that helped start the Texas project are major contributors to Bush's re-election. Also, some members of the New Freedom Commission have served on advisory boards for these same companies, while others have direct ties to TMAP.
Ron Strom is a news editor for WorldNetDaily.com.
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