Screening for Mental Illness–A Diabolical, Profit-Enhancing Experiment

Screening for Mental Illness–A Diabolical, Profit-Enhancing Experiment

Fri, 22 Oct 2004

Concerned citizen groups are joining our effort to stop the government from implementing a sweeping recommendation for lifetime screening for mental illness. If implemented, the first to be screened for hidden mental illness are America’s 52 million school children and 6 million school employees. AHRP recognizes that government incursion into the private lives of children and families, is morally wrong, medically unsupportable, and scientifically invalid.

This bizarre recommendation was made by the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, presumably to stave off mental illness. However, screening for mental illness will not improve anyone’s mental health inasmuch as mental illness is not well defined, and there are no reliable objective tests, such as a blood test nor is there a biochemical marker for diagnosing mental illness. Indeed, the US Surgeon General Report on Mental Health acknowledged: "mental health is not easy to defineŠ.what it means to be mentally healthy is subject to many different interpretations that are rooted in value judgments that may vary across cultures.” [1]

There are no proven treatments that cure mental illness, and psychotropic drugs that are currently used to treat mental disorders – primarily ‘atypical’ antipsychotics and SSRI antidepressants – have not proven a benefit greater than placebo. The drugs’ serious adverse side-effect profile leads critics to conclude that the risks are not justified. Antidepressants are addictive, causing many to suffer severe withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop taking them – and they increase the risk of violent and suicidal behavior leading the FDA to require black box warnings. [2]

The promoters of universal screening threaten to undermine the parental right to say no!

A brochure describing Columbia University’s Teen Screen program proclaims: “If the screening will be given to all students, as opposed to some, it becomes part of the curriculum and no longer requires active parental consent.”

New Freedom Commission chairman, Dr. Michael Hogan, defended screening: "Recognizing the need to balance suicide-prevention and access to medical care with the rights and responsibilities of parents, and being aware of the devastating impact of youth suicide, the commission proposed broad screening only in settings where many children are known to have untreated behavioral problems." [3] However, Dr. Hogan’s rationale is refuted by an authoritative evaluation of the evidence by the US Preventive Services Task Force (PSTF) which concluded that screening for suicide is without merit – as there is no evidence to support that it reduces the suicide risk. Furthermore the PSTF warned that the potential for harm from screening needs to be addressed. [4]

The only beneficiaries of government initiated screening for mental illness are the pharmaceutical industry, politicians whose campaigns the industry finances, and the mental health provider industry – including psychiatrists, psychologists, medical institutions, social workers, and "advocacy" groups – all of whom have a vested interest in expanding their income-producing client base.

The real story behind the New Freedom Commission screening initiative is a profit-enhancing drug prescribing guideline financed by pharmaceutical company giants, and developed by University of Texas psychiatrists, and the the medical director of the Texas mental health department. The Texas Medication Algorithm Program (TMAP) recommentds the new, most expensive pscyhotropic drugs as first line treatment choice for mental disorders. [5]

TMAP treatment choices promote the use of antipsychotics, such as Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa (olanzapine) and Johnson & Johnson’s Risperdal (risperidone), and the SSRI antidepressants, such as Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac, and Paxil (seroxat). TMAP choices are promoted as "evidence-based practice" despite the lack of evidence demonstrating their superiority to alternative treatments. Antipsychotics cause diabetes mellitus, cardiac abnormalities, akathisia, and a host of severe adverse effects. A new Johns Hopkins study confirms that antipsychotics trigger insulin resistance in children. [6] Yet, they are inappropriately, but commonly used to treat children whose "diagnosis" may be "aggression" or bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

Screening for mental illness will likely inflate the rolls of children labeled as having a mental illness, putting them at risk of discrimination–and most likely will result in their being subjected to hazardous psychotropic drugs. In states that adopt TMAP the model, TMAP choices are mandatory at all state funded facilities.

Drug manufacturers invested $6 million to promote TMAP to mental health and correctional facility providers and to state agencies nationally. [7] TMAP is industry’s sure fire profit enhancer that is bankrupting state Medicaid budgets. Industry sponsorship paid off hugely:

*Pfizer contributed $232,000 to the Texas department of mental health to "educate" state mental health provideers about TMAP (i.e., to promote TMAP).

*Texas Medicaid spent $233 million for Pfizer drugs such as, Zoloft (sertraline).

*Johnson & Johnson (Janssen Pharmaceutica) contributed $224,000 and reaped $272 million in Medicaid funds for its antipsychotic drug, Risperdal (risperidone).

*Eli Lilly contributed $109,000 to "educate" state mental health providers.

*Texas Medicad spent $328 million for Eli Lilly’s antipsychotic, Zyprexa (olanzapine). [8]

The New Freedom Commission report promoted TMAP as a "model" for "evidence-based practice." The chairman of the Commission, Michael Hogan, is Director of Ohio’s Mental Health department who adopted the TMAP formulary (OMAP) who aggressively promotes TMAP.

Below, two opinion pieces by Richard Richman, a fellow of the Future Freedom Foundation and Robert Whitehead, a constitutional attorney and founder of the Rutherford Institute recognize the Huxley-Orwell nature of this mass screening initiative and the cynical exploitation of children.

References:

1. Surgeon General Report on Mental Health. 1999. p.5
http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/pdfs/c1.pdf

2. See: FDA http://www.ahrp.org/infomail/04/09/16.php

3. Hogan letter. Washington Times. October 21, 2004

4. See: http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/3rduspstf/suicide/suiciderr.htm#clinical

See: Annals of Internal Medicine, May 18. 2004.

5. See: Allen Jones TMAP report at: http://psychrights.org/Drugs/AllenJonesTMAPJanuary20.pdf

6. Medical Research News. Thursday, 21-Oct-2004. http://www.news-medical.net/?id=5735

7. Putting Clinical Trial Results in Perspective. Editorial. Psychiatric News August 6, 2004
Volume 39 Number 15, p. 35

8. Wilson N. KEYE News Investigates. Psychiatric drugs (July 23, 2004); Drugs and your tax dollars (September 30, 2004). http://keyetv.com/investigativevideo

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
212-595-8974

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http://www.rutherford.org/articles_db/commentary.asp?record_id=304

An Orwellian Nightmare: Mandatory Mental Health Screening of Children by John W. Whitehead
10/18/2004

In embracing a major new health initiative, which is based on a report by the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, the American government has taken a giant step toward an Orwellian nightmare. The commission has recommended mental health screening for all school-aged children, including those in preschool. The recommendations also include expanding school-based mental health programs that require specific treatment for certain conditions, including the wide use of drugs.

Some states have already moved forward to implement recommendations by the commission. For example, the Illinois legislature has passed a plan to screen the mental health of all pregnant women and children up to 18 years of age. The plan also includes the use of antidepressant drugs. Under such a plan, both children and adults will be screened for so-called mental illness during their routine physical exams.

This all began in April 2002 when President Bush launched the new mental health commission. After supposedly conducting a comprehensive study, the commission recommended mental health screening for “consumers of all ages,” including preschool children. Schools, the commission concluded, are in a “key position” to screen the 52 million students and 6 million adults who work in the public schools.

There are many problems with the government’s move to screen our children for mental illness. Such programs are spurious at best since there are no proven “treatments” for the prevention of mental illness. Moreover, to many alleged mental health experts, virtually everything is a mental illness including mild depression, sadness, shyness, forgetfulness and so on. So why is this happening?

The answer may lie in the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (or TMAP). TMAP was promoted by the commission as a “model” medication treatment plan that “illustrates an evidence-based practice that results in better consumer outcomes.”

The TMAP was started as a pilot program under then-Governor Bush as an alliance of individuals from the University of Texas, the pharmaceutical industry and mental health and corrections systems. But according to World Net Daily, the Texas project recently sparked controversy “when a Pennsylvania government employee revealed that 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, said that the “political/pharmaceutical alliance” that developed the Texas project, which promotes the use of expensive antidepressant and anti-psychotic drugs, was actually behind the recommendation of the New Freedom Commission. As such, they 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.”

Moreover, as one reporter pointed out, “Jones discovered that TMAP was in fact driven by pharmaceutical companies who were lavishing Texas politicians, as well as making sure their most expensive patented drugs (some with potentially lethal side effects) were listed as the designated treatments on the algorithms.” Eli Lilly, for instance, the manufacturer of olanzapine, one of the drugs recommended in the plan, has multiple ties to the Bush administration, a clear example of what one writer termed a “cozy political/pharmaceutical alliance that’s taking over the mental health care of your children.” In fact, the elder Bush was a member of Lilly’s board of directors and President Bush appointed Lilly’s chief executive officer, Sidney Taurel, to the Homeland Security Council. And of Lilly’s $1.6 million in political contributions in 2002, 82% went to Bush and the Republican Party.

All this points to why the term “consumer” keeps cropping up in these reports. But who are the consumers? Now they are school children and pregnant women. But soon it will be everyone because we are essentially all consumers and guinea pigs for experimental drugs.

That is why Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.) introduced an amendment in Congress against “mental health screening.” Unfortunately, it failed by a vote of 95-315. Paul, an OB/GYN physician for over 30 years, in a letter to his congressional colleagues wrote: “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 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.”

Already this year, approximately six million school children roughly one out of every eight will take Ritalin for what is termed “attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder” (ADHD), a condition that was once labeled hyperactivity. However, the drugs that are prescribed for ADHD are cocaine-like stimulants. And according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the human nervous system cannot differentiate between cocaine, amphetamines and methylphenidate (Ritalin).

Recent evidence indicates a multitude of side effects for children who take Ritalin. Ritalin has also been tied in with abnormally violent behavior in young people, which is detailed in my article Ritalin Nation: Are We Killing Our Children .

Despite such evidence, the proponents of mental health science keep the pressure on. There is even an attempt at an end-run around federal law. The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), for example, is a federal law that was intended to protect the rights of parents and students. The PPRA allows parents to inspect their children’s instructional materials and requires that schools obtain “written parental consent” before schools engage in such programs as mental health screening. However, under a program developed by some Columbia University physicians called Teen Screen, the protections of the PPRA would be completely undermined. As one of their publications proclaims: “If the screening will be given to all students, as opposed to some, it becomes part of the curriculum and no longer requires active parental consent (i.e., if all ninth graders will be screened as a matter of policy, it is considered part of the curriculum).”

The wolf, so to speak, is at the door, and it is a government/pharmaceutical conglomerate of immense proportions. This is not science fiction; it is happening now. And although we stand to lose our constitutional rights in the name of mental health screening, we could lose much, much more. As the clear evidence shows, the side effects of psychotropic drugs are severe, with some even leading to suicide.

Thus, we are a nation at risk. Our rights, our children and their future could very well be lost in a haze of forced drugging by our government in conjunction with the powerful drug companies.

There are some immediate steps that can be taken to combat the problem. First, learn your rights as a parent under the PPRA. Also, contact your local school officials and demand that you be notified immediately if they are conducting mental health screening on your children. And contact your representatives in Congress and protest these invasive activities that are being foisted on the American people by the government/drug cartel.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute.

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The Washington Times
www.washingtontimes.com

Forum: Bush’s Brave New World

By Sheldon Richman

Published October 17, 2004

President Bush’s little-publicized New Freedom Commission on Mental Health has proposed comprehensive mental-illness screening for all Americans. If this proposal is carried out, as Mr. Bush’s intends, no adult or child will be safe from intrusive probing by “experts,” backed by drug companies, who believe mental illness is woefully underdiagnosed and many millions of people should be taking powerful and expensive psychiatric drugs. Schools and doctors’ offices will become quasi-psychiatric monitoring stations.

Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, tried to forbid the federal funding of mental-health screening, but the House turned down his amendment to the appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services. Mr. Paul, a physician, said the program usurps parental rights, noting parents can already be charged with child abuse for refusing to give their children Ritalin for alleged attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He said, “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.”

Dr. Karen Effrem also opposes the plan: “Universal mental-health screening and the drugging of children, as recommended by the New Freedom 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 schoolchildren should not be medicated by expensive, ineffective and dangerous medications based on vague and dubious diagnoses.”

People wrongly assume psychiatric diagnoses are like medical diagnoses. They’re not. Medical diagnoses are ultimately based on objective biological evidence. Psychiatric diagnoses, as retired psychiatry professor Thomas Szasz shows, are based on what people say and do. This means such diagnoses are moral and political, not medical, judgments. It begs the question to say brain science is still in its infancy: Why is one kind of behavior interpreted as a sign of mental or brain disease but not another kind? Besides, Dr. Szasz writes, behavior has reasons, not causes. That principle is at the very core of what we mean by personhood. (Brain-scan technology cannot refute this principle because it does not identify causes of behavior. Correlation is not causation.)

Thus the New Freedom Commission recommendation that everyone be screened for mental illness whenever he goes to the doctor and that children be monitored for mental illness in government schools is simply a plan to stigmatize people for “inappropriate” behavior and speech. It is also a plan for the widespread drugging of adults and children under government supervision. Besides the Huxleyian aspects of this idea, there is also reason to fear the improper influence of drug companies.

Allen Jones, formerly of the Pennsylvania Inspector General’s Office, revealed a similar program was started in his state after drug companies curried favor with state officials. The British Medical Journal reported: “In July 2002, Mr. Jones was appointed lead investigator when he uncovered evidence of payments into an off-the-books account. The account, earmarked for ‘educational grants’ was funded in large part by Pfizer and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Payments were made from the account to state employees who developed formulary guidelines recommending expensive new drugs over older, cheaper drugs with proved track records. One of the recommended drugs was Janssen’s … Risperdal — a drug that has recently been found to have potentially lethal side effects.”

In a statement last January, Mr. Jones said: “The industry was influencing state officials with trips, perks, lavish meals, transportation to and first-class accommodations in major cities. Some state employees were paid honorariums of up to $2,000 for speaking in their official capacities at drug-company-sponsored events.”

Mr. Jones was relieved of his duties after blowing the whistle. In court papers challenging the state’s move, he said the government was trying to “cover up, discourage and limit any investigations or oversight into the corrupt practices of large drug companies and corrupt public officials who have acted with them.”

The New Freedom Mental Health Commission has received little publicity. One hopes, as Americans learn about its ominous proposal for wholesale mental-illness screening and psychiatric drugging of adults and children, they will vehemently object.

SHELDON RICHMAN

Senior fellow, The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org) in Fairfax, Va.
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