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Reauthorization of Indiviudals With Disabilities Act (IDEA)

July 8, 2002

"Mental and emotional disorders were added to IDEA in 1991. Since that time, the rates of diagnosis and drugging of school-aged children has increased dramatically."

"...the rate [in Minnesota] of emotionally and behaviorally disturbed (EBD) children has increased 136%, and 'other health impairment,' which includes ADD, has gone up 930%. The EBD category is used especially frequently to label minority children. Minnesota is usually number one or two in the nation for use of that label on African and Native American students."

Reauthorization of Indiviudals With Disabilities Act (IDEA)
Foundations for Learning Act Ammended Into No Child Left Behind (HR 1)

Background

The Foundations for Learning Act, sponsored by Senator Edward Kennedy and Congressman Patrick Kennedy was amended into the massive federal education bill called No Child Left Behind, which was signed into law in January of this year by President Bush.

What is the purpose of this legislation? It seeks "to provide mental health services to eligible children [0-7] and, when necessary to promote the child's healthy development, their families, provided that such services cannot be paid for by other sources."

What does this legislation do? It provides federal funds in the form of grants to states and other agencies to provide preschool screening, parent education, social services, home visits, transportation and curriculum to support "social and emotional development."

What children are eligible for these services? A child may receive services if "the child has been removed from child care, Head Start, or preschool for behavioral reasons or is at risk of being so removed" or if "the child has been exposed to parental depression or other mental illness." (Emphasis added).

Problems

1) The criteria for diagnosing mental disorders are very vague in general, but are extremely vague and inaccurate for children. The 1999 Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health says, "The science is challenging because of the ongoing process of development. The normally developing child hardly stays the same long enough to make stable measurements. Adult criteria for illness can be difficult to apply to children and adolescents, when the signs and symptoms of mental disorders are often also the characteristics of normal development." The 2001 World Health Report by the World Health Organization reports essentially the same thing when it says, "Childhood and adolescence being developmental phases, it is difficult to draw clear boundaries between phenomena that are part of normal development and others that are abnormal."

2) These grants will further subsidize the labeling and drugging of an alarmingly large population of young children with potent medications that have not been studied in that age group. The same Sacramento Bee article quoted above also mentioned 5000 stimulant prescriptions for children under five in Sacramento County, California alone, as tabulated by the State Department of Justice, and 258 of those were for two year olds. This is in addition to the JAMA study from February of 2000 showing a 300% increase in the use of psychotropics in 2 to 4 year olds and 3000 prescriptions for Prozac in infants less than one year old.

3) The federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in mental health and early childhood issues and the record of success of these types of programs is abysmal. Head Start is the nation's oldest and largest preschool program. It has a mental health component and home visitation just as the Foundations for Learning Act does. Despite 37 years, more than $44 billion, at least 17 million children, and more than 600 studies, there is no evidence that Head Start works. According to the GAO, the Dept. of Health and Human Services and even one of the program's co-founders, any benefits are gone by the time the child reaches second grade and these programs do not prevent later juvenile delinquency. (See Let Our Mothers Go) The home visitation component of Head Start is not only ineffective, but invasive as well. Dianna Lightfoot and the National Physician's Center in Birmingham, Alabama did a study on home visiting. Their review of six control group studies showed no decrease in child abuse rates. Comprehensive services can cost up to $47,000 per family and still show no improvement in cognitive development of the child. Other problems include the review of medical records without consent, lack of informed and voluntary consent for participation, only as little as five days of training for the home visitors, unscientific or biased information presented to families, the collection of massive amounts of private family data, and families may unknowingly be giving up their right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

Status of the Bill

This bill was amended into the conference report of a very large education bill at the very last moment. It is in the Secretary of Education's discretionary fund and there must be money appropriated for it by Congress. Members of the US House of Representatives and particularly the Members on the Education and Workforce Committee could be contacted before the appropriation bill for the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services is brought out of committee. The House is the body where all appropriations bills must begin. This is a statist bill that Republicans who control the House generally do not support. Aside from the problems listed above, there are significant budget issues and concern about the war on terror that should preclude the funding of this wasteful and dangerous program. Calls and emails could go to Congressman John Boehner, Congressman Mike Castle, Congressman Tom Tancredo, and Lisa Bos at the Republican Study Committee. If it is still in the appropriations bill by the time the bill reaches the House floor or the Senate, then your own Representative and both US Senators could be contacted.

Karen R. Effrem, M.D.
ICSPP Advisory Board
Maple River Education Coalition Board of Directors
National Physician's Center for Family Resources Executive Board

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