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June 1, 2005

A major  victory in Texas!

The Texas legislature has adjourned, but not without an all-out battle over implementing recommendations from the controversial 2004 New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (NFC) that could have set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the states.  The NFC recommended mental health screening for adults and children as young as preschool age in primary care health settings, schools, and correctional facilities -- basically anywhere people interact with government or medicine. Other recommendations of the New Freedom Commission included requiring specific treatments for specific conditions, including the use of specific medications.  (See 2004 EdWatch alert on the New Freedom Commission.)

According to MerryLynn Gerstenschlager, education director for Texas Eagle Forum, much-needed mental health/mental retardation reform legislation in Texas (HB 2572) became a vehicle last week for a dangerous and far-reaching amendment that was unexpectedly added to the bill going into conference committee. The amendment aroused heated reaction from the public and from groups monitoring the issue.

Dr. Karen Effrem of EdWatch, who has alerted the public to the dangers of the NFC recommendations nationally, provided extensive background research and analysis on the issue to those involved. John Breeding, Ph.D., a psychologist and founder of Texans for Safe Education (TFSE), provided testimony against the amendment and mobilized his members against it. Dr. Breeding has experience with the dangers of mental health screening. He is the psychologist caring for Aliah Gleason, the young girl who was forcibly admitted to a state mental hospital and drugged after a school screening. [Note: You may click here to join TFSE and Ablechild to sign a declaration of refusal to submit your children to mental health screening and drugging.]

A Texas Eagle Forum alert stated that the Texas amendment would have done the following: Gun Owners of America also issued an alert to its Texas members, stating, "The amendment calls for a mental health screening system that could potentially cover every child in the state -- with no guarantee that it won't be done over the objections of the parents. It is common knowledge," the GOA alert stated, "that public schools routinely insist upon medicating (drugging) students to control behavior." The alert described how the state would first determine that a child has "unacceptable" mental behavior, then insist upon prescribed drugs as a solution.

Thanks to the incredible grassroots work of these and other groups and individuals, the legislators involved wisely saw the amendment's many problems and dangers. It was withdrawn during conference committee negotiations on the final weekend, in spite of major support from wealthy and influential political supporters. Initially the committee wanted to establish an "interim study committee" of the mental health system in Texas. The number one goal of that committee would have been to study the "integration" of behavioral and physical health care. Such a study would have simply postponed the battle until next year. In the end, legislators amended the conference report to study only the "effectiveness" of these two systems.

The Texas battle is part of larger coordinated effort to implement the NFC recommendations in every state. The powerful pharmaceutical industry, wealthy foundations with political agendas, and the mental health establishment have a huge financial and political stake in seeing these recommendations implemented nationally and through federal legislation. Minnesota legislators, for example, are being lobbied heavily by these same groups to adopt mental health screening for toddlers in proposed Nanny State legislation. Congress allocated $20 million last year to assist states in implementing the recommendations of the NFC.

Dr. Karen Effrem of EdWatch has written that "Mental health diagnostic criteria are very vague and subjective." She has noted that "Experts admit the lack of science underlying psychiatric labels." Effrem's sources include the World Health Organization, the US Surgeon General, authors of psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, and other psychiatric textbook authors and experts who admit that psychiatric diagnostic criteria are "subjective" and "social constructions.'" "How could it be wise," Effrem asked, "to integrate these two very different health systems at taxpayer’s expense?
The Texas legislation (HB 2572) was a top priority in the Texas 2005 legislature and had been promoted heavily by Republican Governor Rick Perry. At the federal level, Texas Congressman Ron Paul has gained the support of 36 co-sponsors for a bill (HR 181) that forbids federal funds from being used for any mental health screening of children without the consent of parents.  Five of the co-sponsors have signed on in May.
Provides the informed citizen with hardcopies of nine (9) informative articles on the push for universal mental health screening, by five nationally recognized authors. This packet also includes a CD which has copies of all the articles plus a PowerPoint presentation and a radio interview by Dr. Effrem.