Sept. 9, the ‘Ron
Paul Amendment’ was defeated in the House of Representatives
by a vote of 95-315.
Amendment would have prevented the funds sought by an appropriations
bill (HR 5006) from being used for the mandatory mental-health screening
of Americans, including public schoolchildren.
Ron Paul, R-Texas, a practicing physician for more than 30 years,
against the new program on the grounds that it negates parental
rights and would encourage the over-medication of children.
to the House vote, Paul had vehemently denounced
mandatory mental-health screening in a letter to fellow congressmen.
wrote, “[P]sychotropic 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.”
idea of nationally screening school children for mental health stems
from the establishment of the New
Freedom Commission on Mental Health in 2002. Its mission is
to “promote successful community integration for adults with a serious
mental illness and children with a serious emotional disturbance.”
commission conducted a “comprehensive study of the…health service
delivery system,” which found mental health problems to be under-diagnosed.
report outlines the government’s plan to assist those with disabilities,
including mental health problems. The government intends to use
government agencies and services – such as transportation, housing,
and education “to tear down the remaining barriers to full integration
[of the disabled] into American life.”
reports, the commission’s panel “recommended comprehensive mental
health screening for ‘consumers of all ages,’ including preschool
children…Schools, the panel concluded, are in a ‘key position’
to screen the 52 million students and 6 million adults who work
at the schools.”
public schools would address “the mental health needs of youth in
the education system” through “prevention, early identification,
early intervention, and treatment.” How early?
have been offered to the mental screening of the 52 million students
and the 6 million adults at schools.
health diagnoses are subjective and, to be of value, must be
formed by trained professionals who test and observe subjects
over time. The expense and magnitude of screening 58 million
people means diagnoses are likely to be made quickly and by
poorly trained people.
criteria for diagnosing mental disabilities such as Attention
Deficit Disorder (ADD) are vague and a matter of heated debate
within the medical community itself.
pressure can make schools prone to over-apply social programs,
especially when they are connected to the continuation of funding.
children for behavioral problems could easily become a form
of social control. That is, school authorities could use medication
to prevent behavior of which they simply disapproved, such as
screenings may be used to force parents to put their children
on psychiatric medication. Some parents who have refused to
do so under current policies have been threatened or charged
abuse” for no other reason than their refusal.
of the psychiatric medications administered to children have
been only approved for and tested on adults. The long-term effect
on developing children has yet to be determined.
effects can be severe. Indeed, at least two
deaths have been attributed to prescribing Ritalin to children.
also raise matters of principle. First and foremost is the question
rights. It is not clear what rights – if any – parents preserve
over the medical treatment of their children. Will they be threatened
with the removal of their child if they refuse to place a son or
daughter on Ritalin?
children who resist medication be expelled from a school that is
supported by their parents’ taxes? If so, the government seems to
be telling parents that education is a privilege for which parents
must not only pay but for which they must also surrender medical
control over their children.
what of medical privacy rights? It defies credibility that psychiatric
records on tens of millions of school children would be covered
by anything resembling patient-doctor confidentiality. Public school
records that include intimate details of medical history may well
follow children into adulthood.
have also been voiced: specifically, that the program is driven
by political-pharmaceutical alliances that benefits drug companies.
point to the fact that the Texas
Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP) has been used as a model
according to whistleblower Allen
Jones, an employee of the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector
General, TMAP promotes “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.”
has moved onto the Senate, where it will be heard before the end
of the year.
for those who advocate the medication of problem children, this
measure contains too many uncertainties and possibilities of abuse.
the Senate will find a champion to call out for an amendment similar
to that proposed by Rep. Ron Paul.
McElroy [send her mail] is
the editor of ifeminists.com
and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland,
Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles,
including the new book, Liberty
for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century
(Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002).