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House Passes Child Medication Safety Act
Vote is 407 to 12 in important step toward protecting children

November 18, 2005

        On Wednesday, November 16th, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the Child Medication Safety Act (CMSA) sponsored by Cong. John Kline of Minnesota. We commend and thank Mr. Kline and the US House for this strong effort to protect children and parental rights. The bill must still be introduced and passed in the Senate. Currently, there is no Senate author.

        The vote on H.R. 1790, "to protect children and their parents from being coerced into administering a controlled substance or a psychotropic drug in order to attend school," was 407 to 12 on a Roll call vote. Minnesota's entire delegation voted yes. Please call your members to thank them for their support for children and families.
        
        The bi-partisan vote for CSMA demonstrates that its provisions enjoy broad public support. All 25 co-sponsors, however, were Republican, with the noteworthy exception of Collin Peterson of Minnesota. Minnesota's Peterson, Mark Kennedy and Gil Gutknecht all joined Mr. Kline as co-sponsors. The absence of more Democratic co-sponsors is disappointing on an issue that should be aggressively promoted by all elected officials. The powerful pharmaceutical lobby is now the chief obstacle to final Congressional passage, and bi-partisan support will be required to stir action in the Senate.

        In a November 15th floor speech , Cong. Kline noted the potential for "serious harm and abuse" in the use of psychotropic drugs on children. "In some instances," he stated, "school personnel freely offer diagnoses for ADD and ADHD disorders and urge parents to obtain drug treatment for their child. Sometimes, officials even attempt to force parents into choosing between medicating their child and allowing that child to remain in the classroom. This is unconscionable. Parents should never be forced to medicate their child against their will and better judgment in order to ensure their child will receive educational services."

        EdWatch's Dr. Karen Effrem has presented testimony to Congress on this issue and has led the charge to put this protection into law. One example of the need to prohibit coercion to medicate is demonstrated in the article  -- Medicating Aliah.
ALIAH GLEASON IS A BIG, lively girl with a round face, a quick wit, and a sharp tongue. She's 13 and in eighth grade at Dessau Middle School in Pflugerville, Texas, an Austin suburb, but could pass for several years older. She is the second of four daughters of Calvin and Anaka Gleason, an African American couple who run a struggling business taking people on casino bus trips...Aliah was a B and C student who "got in trouble for running my mouth."
        First diagnosed by school personnel as having "oppositional disorder", Aliah was later screened for mental illness and taken to the  Austin State Hospital, a state mental facility, against her parents wishes. She was denied family contact for five months and forcibly medicated with 12 different powerful and toxic psychotropic medications. "What, if anything, was wrong with Aliah remains cloudy." The entire story is on-line. Children have died from the toxic effects of psychotropic medications on which their parents were forced by the schools to put them.

        EdWatch is especially focused on the CMSA, because state and federal policies are rapidly establishing comprehensive state mental health systems that would require universal mental health screening of all children. These are funded by Congress and administered by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and by the Administration for Children & Families (ACF). The result of massive mental health screening will inevitably be massive drugging. The pharmaceutical lobby also drives universal screening policies. The Parental Consent Act of 2005 to prohibit federal money for universal screening programs still awaits Congressional action.

        In addition, this month's Ninth Circuit Appeals Court's now infamous Palmdale decision against parental authority, besides establishing the school as arbiter of sex education and supporting a school's right to ask nosy questions that were part of a mental health study, was actually upholding the schools' right to "protect the mental health of children." Legislation like the CMSA is absolutely vital to protect and reassert parental rights to direct the education and health care of their children.

        Rep. Hinojosa, D-TX,  said, "the decision to medicate a child to treat mental health problems ... belongs solely to the parents."

        Chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Rep. Boehner, R-OH, pointed out that in Congressional hearings, he has learned of "the number of complaints from parents, grandparents and others where their children were going to be denied admission to school or denied services unless their child was put on medication." He further said:
"Last year when we reauthorized IDEA, the special ed law, we put identical language in that law to protect the parents of special needs children. What this does is covers the rest of the children. I think it is a great step in the right direction, and I urge my colleagues to support it."
        Rep. Murphy, R-PA, stated that he is "concerned about some schools coercing parents to medicate their children without medical justification--exactly what this legislation aims to prevent. When I saw child patients as a psychologist," Mr. Murphy said, "I was once strongly pressured by a school administrator to recommend medication for students. That sort of pressure is unethical, not to mention potentially leading to harm for children." In other words, we know that coercion to drug students is a reality in our nation.
        
        In the last Congress the CMSA passed the House 425 to 1 Yet in 2004 it died in the Senate for lack of committee action, thanks to the active blockade by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA). Kennedy admitted those efforts in a July 2, 2004 Boston Globe story: "Kennedy's office said that it is important to separate the roles of schools and doctors but that any legislation limiting schools' ability to push for treatment of children with mental-health issues should wait until further study of the benefits and detriments of psychiatric drugs." That story also noted that Kennedy had received $171,601 in campaign contributions from health professionals and $97,050 from the pharmaceutical and health-product industry.

        Since that statement by Kennedy's office, a flurry of revelations have been published. They document pharmaceutical industry cover-ups  of unflattering clinical trial data and scientific data that show lack of safety and effectiveness of any of the psychiatric drugs in children. Given that information, opposition to the CMSA by the Senate would now be absurd.
        
         Congressman Mark Kennedy, R-MN, stated, "As a father of four, I understand how important it is to protect parental rights. Parents are the ones who should be deciding what is best for their children's health and education." Yet, twelve House members actually voted no this week -- 11 Democrats and one Republican. It's hard to imagine what their excuse might be!

        Will this urgent protection for our children and our rights as parents die again in the 109th Congress? Will Senators step forward to sponsor this common-sense, necessary protection for our children and see to it that the CMSA receives an up or down vote in committee and on the Senate floor? Or will the pharmaceutical lobby once again have their way as they did in the last Congress?

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