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Children's Mental Health in the 108th Congress:
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

by Karen R. Effrem, MD
EdWatch Board of Directors

Both universal mental health screening and the coercive drugging of children were hot topics in the after-election “lame duck” session of Congress, completed just before Thanksgiving. These issues were prominent in the consideration of both the omnibus budget bill and the reauthorization of the special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The following is our analysis of these issues along with implications for the next session of Congress.

THE GOOD:  The good news on these issues comes from the reauthorization of IDEA. Several hundred of you contacted Congress via the e-action alert about these special education issues and we thank you. Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner and the Committee staff also deserve kudos and thanks for the following:

THE BAD:  Sadly, despite media coverage by Dr. Laura, G. Gordon Liddy, World Net Daily, News Max, many talk radio interviews across the country, and thousands of calls and emails to Congress, grants to fund the New Freedom Commission (NFC)  recommendations, which include universal mental health screening and treatment with ineffective and dangerous medications, were not stopped.  $20 million was appropriated for state grants to implement the NFC recommendations. Physician and  Congressman Paul’s excellent language that required parental consent for screening before these programs were funded was not included. Dr. Paul wrote a letter signed by more than twenty Members urging the parental consent language. House leadership, including Speaker Hastert, Majority Leader DeLay, and Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Regula accepted the Paul language. All of these House Members and those that voted for the original amendment in September deserve our thanks. (See our update.) Sadly, that language protecting the basic right of parental consent was dropped in the Senate.

Despite great disappointment at this setback, there were a few silver linings that this issue has brought.  First, the amount funded ($20 million) was less than half of what was requested ($44 million) by the Senate and the administration.  Thanks to the excellent work of Congressman and physician Ron Paul and his staff, and his Liberty Committee directed by Kent Snyder and their excellent alerts, media coverage, many other groups and your dedication and response to our e-alert, at least 19,000 people contacted Congress to oppose universal mental health screening, the dangers, and the loss of parental rights that these programs entail. Thank you. 

Finally, please know that your actions are still having an impact. Congressional staff in the offices of Members who support these freedom-robbing programs are complaining bitterly about Congressman Paul and the groups that are standing for liberty to protect their children from labels and drugs, saying that their national screening programs are put in jeopardy by our work.  We must continue the fight to destroy this program before it takes full root.

In addition to the $20 million for the New Freedom Commission grants, the omnibus appropriations bill also provides via HHS “$2 million for grants to local educational systems or non-profit entities to identify and test evidence-based practices to treat teenagers suffering from mental, emotional or behavioral disorders,” which will result in more psychiatric drugging. It also provides $7 million for “grants and cooperative agreements to develop early intervention and prevention strategies to address the growing problem of youth suicide” via the Garrett Lee Smith suicide prevention law, which will also result in more screening and drugging of children and adolescents.  (See our July 26th update)

The Department of Education is spending $5 million on “Mental Health Integration in Schools” that we are still investigating, as well as $1 million for Senator Kennedy’s disastrous early childhood mental health program called Foundations for Learning.   (See our update.)

THE UGLY:  The ugliest parts of this situation are: