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Mental Health Assessment

Posted September 13, 2004
National Home Education Legal Defense © 2004

Did you know? Children's mental health will be assessed along with their academic standards in the new proposed testing initiatives. Pregnant and new mothers will also be tested. Federal legislation is calling for this and recently the Illinois State Board of Education has been given the responsibility to develop the appropriate tests and policies to go along with this legislation.

Consider this quote:

"Every child in America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It's up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well by creating the international child of the future."

Harvard psychiatrist Chester M. Pierce, speaking as an expert in public education at the 1973 International Education Seminar

Even back in 1912, John Dewey, the father of progressive education said the society or group is most important, and that independent individualists have a form of "insanity." There is a lot of history between then and now, and suffice it to say that this has been brewing for a good long time. Let's come forward now to our present time.

Parenting by Executive Order

President George W. Bush signed an Executive Order on June 18, 2001 (# 13217) supporting community-based services and programs for individuals with disabilities. This Executive Order directs key federal agencies to work together and with states to ensure full compliance with the Supreme Court's ruling in the Olmstead case (1999) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

The intention of this order was to make sure that persons with disabilities are helped and integrated into society. The fact sheet gives a good background on this executive order and on its face it probably was well-intentioned. Federal agencies should assist the states to ensure their compliance with the Olmstead decision.

Additional Information

This issue was then taken a step further when an additional federal government mandate, The New Freedom Initiative, issued on April 29 2002, was directed to improve America's mental health service delivery system for individuals with serious mental illness and children with serious emotional disturbances. The executive order says a commission should be set up, and describes its membership, mission, guiding principles, administration, reporting and eventual termination. One part in section 3 reads:

"(c) Formulate policy options that could be implemented by public and private providers, and Federal, State, and local governments to integrate the use of effective treatments and services, improve coordination among service providers, and improve community integration for adults with serious mental illnesses and children with serious emotional disturbances."

Lest you think this is just a partisan issue, please understand that it is not. Both sides of the aisle have had a hand in the steps arriving to this point and it is a fact that in 2001, President George W. Bush worked with U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy to pass the federal "No Child Left Behind" legislation. The No Child Left Behind Act is already carrying forward the ideas of expanding mental health in the schools and early identification. Here is just one excerpt from NCLB legislation:

(a) Authorization - The Secretary is authorized to award grants to, or enter into contracts or cooperative agreements with, State educational agencies, local educational agencies, or Indian tribes, for the purpose of increasing student access to quality mental health care by developing innovative programs to link local school systems with the local mental health system.

Consider the Surgeon General's report which came out of the Clinton administration in 1999. [See Also]

This report says that about 20% (one of five) of Americans younger than 18 has a diagnosable mental disorder, and 10% have serious, impairing mental illnesses. It further states that fewer than 20% of them receive treatment. It says that children are just about as likely as adults to have mental illness, but much less is known about childhood disorders and safe, effective treatments for them. So according to this it means that if we all looked around at 5 children surrounding us, would we say that one of them must have a mental disorder.

[Read Chapter 3 - Section 1] and [Read Chapter 3 Conclusion]

We all know that NCLB includes provisions for expanding school-based mental health programs. This also fits with the report of The New Freedom in Mental Health Commission, which stressed that "schools must be partners in the mental health care of our children."

The Commission's vision statement reads as follows:

We envision a future when everyone with a mental illness will recover, a future when mental illnesses can be prevented or cured, a future when mental illnesses are detected early, and a future when everyone with a mental illness at any stage of life has access to effective treatment and supports - essentials for living, working, learning, and participating fully in the community.

If you read the New Freedom Commission's goals and recommendations you will see on pages 58-61 that they discuss these key points among others:

  1. "Screen for mental disorders in primary health care, across the life span, and connect to treatment and supports."
  2. "Schools are in a key position to identify mental health problems early and to provide a link to appropriate services... (because) almost one-fifth of the population passes through the Nation's schools on any given weekday."
  3. "Quality screening and early intervention should occur in readily accessible, low-stigma settings such as primary health care facilities and schools..."
  4. Recommendation of early intervention programs such as the "Nurse-Family Partnership... a nurse visits the homes of high-risk women when pregnancy begins, and continues for the first year of the child's life." There is also the Columbia University TeenScreen® Program. Teenscreen works by creating partnerships with schools and communities and helping them to implement their own screening programs to identify at-risk teens and pre-teens. The program is now used in high schools and other settings in 26 states. It was developed under the leadership of David Shaffer, M.D., the Director of the Columbia University's Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
  5. [View PDF Document]

The stated goal is to build a coordinated system of prevention, early intervention and treatment for children and their families through schools, communities and health care agencies.

As a result many states have plans in the works to implement aspects of this initiative, and Illinois recently signed into law, the bill HB 2900 The Children's Mental Health Act. [See also SB 1951]

It was passed in the Illinois General Assembly last spring. It was sponsored in the Illinois House by State Representatives Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) and Patricia Bellock (R-Westmont). State Senator Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest) and Susan Garrett (D-Highwood) shepherded the legislation through the Senate. The legislation passed the House with a 107 to 5 vote, and the Senate unanimously.

The Illinois plan is the first in the nation to have progressed thus far, although even as early as 2001, in Oregon, the legislature passed SB 965 and HB 3659 that was signed by Governor Kitzhaber, allowing for state social workers to go into homes and evaluate all first born children. This was all done under mental health.

We cannot stress the importance of keeping tabs on your state legislatures and the legislation that comes out of them because in the case of Oregon, unsuspecting young parents were never told beforehand, that they had the right to refuse any evaluation (More about parental consent below).

A report in the Illinois Leader states that the mental health legislation will help develop a mental health system for "all children ages 0-18 years," provide for screening to "ensure appropriate and culturally relevant assessment of young children's social and emotional development with the use of standardized tools." Also, all pregnant women will be screened for depression and thereafter following her baby's birth, up to one year. Follow-up treatment services will also be provided.

One only has to look at the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority Website to see what is coming with regard to the Mental Health Partnership. [See also - 56-page Final Task Force Report and their Preliminary Plan]

In all of this, other states are following suit. You can check if your state is included in the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health State Implementation Activities list, and you also ought to speak to your local state representative to find out what is on the docket with regard to this important issue.

If this sounds a bit Orwellian to you, consider that you are not alone in your thinking and many people are already protesting this vehemently, and there are lots of articles being written on this subject. NHELD firmly believes that we cannot let mandatory mental health testing happen in any state and we must hope that the people of Illinois can repeal what already has been done there. We need to rally to prevent similar legislation in any state as well as federally. It's not going to be an easy task, but it is a very necessary one. This will affect everyone, including homeschoolers.

Affect on Homeschooling

How does it affect homeschoolers? If first born and parents are screened, who is to say that the government funded mental health care provider will not determine that the parent is mentally unstable or deficient such that the parent is not competent to homeschool, or that such a parent must comply with government directives in order to homeschool? It is not a stretch to think that this is possible, because some state government regulations already prevent foster parents from homeschooling their children.

Regarding opting out - if the government declares that a parent is mentally unstable or deficient, then the government has a ready made reasonable argument that the parent is not competent to opt out of any services for the parent or for the child.

Throughout all of this legislation cited, there is one key factor - all of the legislation applies to entities receiving Federal Funding. Again, this is yet one more example of how the federal government "regulates" or utilizes its governmental "power" even though the U.S. Constitution grants to the federal government limited "powers." Remember, the Tenth Amendment - those powers not delegated specifically to the United States government by the Constitution are reserved to the States or to the people. The federal government does not have the delegated power to screen the population for mental health. It is doing so through the commerce clause of the Constitution by providing federal money. Even "nonprofit" "private" entities that accept federal funding are required to comply with the mandates of the federal legislation.

If the screening becomes part of the curriculum of the public schools, and if the public schools, under state law or federal law, are in charge of "approving" the homeschool program for your child, the public school easily could withhold "approval" of the homeschool program unless the homeschool parent complies with the screening.

Some other things to consider:

Child Medication Act

Meanwhile in the Senate - people like Ted Kennedy have been stalling legislation that would Support the Child Medication Act (SB 1390):

This legislation prohibits schools from coercing parents into placing their children on psychiatric medications like Ritalin that are on the controlled substances list. It passed the House last year 425-1. The creation of SB 1390/HR 1170 was prompted by complaints from parents that school officials were threatening to keep their children out of school unless they took behavior-altering medication. About 11 million school children and adolescents took prescription medication intended to treat their mental health in 2002, and many articles point to the alarming trend that the number is rising.

Senator Kennedy, with large support from pharmaceutical companies, has not let this legislation even receive a hearing, saying that it needs more study. Please take the time to read this article: Kennedy ties up drug bill

Sam Blumenfeld also penned an excellent article about this:
Should the government force drugs on kids?

We ought to be contacting our Congressional representatives and demand that funding be cut off from the New Freedom Commission that is seeking $20 million in funding for their "State Grants for Transformation" program, which is currently in the House Labor/HHS appropriations bill, HC 292.

Legislators Vote

Congressman Ron Paul is also trying to keep the drug companies, politicians and federal bureaucrats from becoming parents to your children. Dr. Paul introduced an amendment to the Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Act for FY 2005 that will withhold funds for this new federal mental-health-screening program. He urged his congressional colleagues to support his efforts but unfortunately the amendment was voted down and you might be interested to know how your State Representative voted.

We must also contact Congress to fight off legislation proposed by Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) HR 3063, Children's Mental Health Screening and Prevention Act of 2003 (Introduced in House), which authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Education, and the Attorney General to make 10 grants to demonstration facilities to implement evidence-based preventive-screening tools to detect mental illness and suicidal tendencies in school-age youth at selected facilities.

Dr. Karen R. Effrem, is a physician and leading opponent of mandatory screening. She said, "Universal mental health screening and the drugging of children, as recommended by the New Freedom Commission [presidential commission], needs to be stopped so that many thousands if not millions of children will be saved from receiving stigmatizing diagnoses that would follow them for the rest of their lives. America's school children should not be medicated by expensive, ineffective, and dangerous medications based on vague and dubious diagnoses."

Know the Facts

Much has been written about the Federal legislation as well as the Illinois bill. Here is a sampling and we encourage you to read up on this extremely important and freedom threatening issue.

The British equivalent of the FDA banned the use of all of the newer SSRI antidepressant drugs except Prozac in children under 18 (http://www.icspp.org/media/drugsfor.htm) after finding that the pharmaceutical companies had withheld data showing an increased risk of suicide in children taking the medications for more than 7 years, as well as not publishing studies showing no improvement for children on the medications.

Attorney Deborah Stevenson
Executive Director
National Home Education Legal Defense

Judy Aron
Director of Research, NHELD

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