Author Gathering Place

Laura Brown

The cuckoo’s nest:
Just too many
bureaucrats in there

Tammy (her full name is being withheld because she is a minor) was given 27 pills per day for more than five years. Her original diagnosis: emotionally impaired. Her current diagnosis: psychotic, suicidal, oppositional defiant.

Her teacher says that when Tammy wasn't catatonic in class, she was attacking other children during violent outbursts.

Tammy is now 12 years old. Her mother, a nurse, initially agreed to the school's recommendation to put Tammy on medication. Finally, in a desperate attempt to reclaim her child, she removed all medications, and an amazing thing happened -- her child came back to life.

This child's life and her classroom might seem far away from policy decisions guided by such federal agencies as the National Institute of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Children's Mental Health Services, but they are intricately linked.

The president's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health issued its findings and recommendations for mental health services across the nation. The commission's goals include using "preventative intervention" on children: "For example, a child whose serious emotional disturbance is identified early will receive care, preventing the potential onset of a co-occurring substance use disorder and breaking a cycle that can otherwise lead to school failure and other problems."

In other words, mental health "experts" will begin treating even normal children, just in case they might develop a disorder some day.

Here's another gem from the report: "Research indicates that even before a first birthday, babies can suffer clinical depression and traumatic stress disorder. Fortunately, we can treat them and their families."

And how will this treatment of children and their families occur?

"Quality screening and early intervention will occur in both readily accessible, low stigma settings such as primary health-care facilities and schools, and in settings in which a high level of risk exists for mental-health problems, such as criminal justice. Children and adults will be screened for mental illness during routine physical exams. Every time an American comes in contact with the mental-health system, they will be treated consistent with our understanding of what works."

In 1997, the Social Security Act, Title XXI, expanded the Medicaid program for children to $20.3 billion. Block grants allowed states to choose how to include mental-health services under Medicaid. Under a CMHS project, several states, including Hawaii, researched experimental programs to reduce foster care and other costs of institutionalization using Medicaid funding.

In Hawaii, a federal court judge subsequently ordered the state, under the Felix Consent Decree, to fund the objectives of this federal research project rather than focus on qualified treatment for children.

According to SAMHSA, the $265 billion Medicaid program is the No. 1 source of revenue for community mental-health providers, which has allowed states to cut costs for mental health and substance abuse services. The primary recipients of Medicaid are children from 6 to 20 years old; 70 percent have serious emotional disabilities and are prescribed psychotropic drugs.

The president's New Freedom Commission almost gleefully reports that one-fifth of our nation's population passes through public schools, presenting a huge clientele for drug companies and school-based "behavioral" health providers.

Sue Parry, an occupational therapist who owns a consulting business called ADD Watch Hawaii, says schools have become "quasi-mental health care agencies," and teachers and parents are "looking for short-term benefits without realizing the long-term consequences of being diagnosed and medicated." She says America is the only country that drugs its children for performance and behavioral problems.

National mental-health policy is guided by psychologists whose megalomaniac desires to "fix our families" are enabled by federal funding. But anyone who thinks misguided governmental social policy can fix what ails us as a society is definitely nuts, opponents to drugging children say.

Laura Brown is the education analyst for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.


E-mail to Editorial Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --