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Sounding the alarm: Infant mental health
State and federal plans move forward
Karen R. Effrem, MD

November 23, 2005

        The above shocking graphic is from a federally funded coalition of academic institutions centered at UCLA promoting early childhood mental health. It should remove any remaining shred of doubt that the federal government is moving to implement a universal system of mental health screening, intervention, and monitoring, beginning with our very youngest children. This program is called the State Early Childhood Comprehensive System (SECCS), administered by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). The paper containing the graphic is all about infant mental health, as well as the integration of mental health into early childhood programs.

         The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (NFC) report was bad enough, suggesting mental health screening and intervention should begin in preschool to "ensure that children are ready for school."  This UCLA document, however, demonstrates the clear presumption of government to interfere in the mental and emotional lives of citizens from birth on.

        In addition to this document, the federal agency (SAMHSA) that administers the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission, has issued its action plans. These plans, called the Federal Mental Health Action Agenda ( FMHAA), are also in line with the UCLA planning document shown above.

        The federal Action Agenda says that their "Prevention and Early Intervention Grant Program is designed to develop mental health promotion and early intervention services targeted to infants, toddlers, preschool, and school-aged children, and/or to adolescents in mental health care settings and other programs that serve children and adolescents."

        The Action Agenda, in describing this infant mental health program, also states: "State Maternal and Child Health Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Grants will bring in other Federal partners to plan for and develop statewide systems of care to support the healthy social and emotional development of childrenIn particular, grants support the development of a State plan that addresses access to health insurance and regular primary care services, mental health and social-emotional development interventions, early child care and educational supports, and parent education and family support."

        This program integrates mental health into early childhood programs. Several state early learning standards and national Head Start standards include vague, subjective, and controversial "social and emotional" outcomes, such as "Develops ability to identify personal characteristics including gender and family composition."  Standards like these, beside violating parental roles, cause psychological harm by involving young children in highly controversial sexual and social issues that are completely inappropriate for their developmental level.

        Notice in the graphic above that screening is the very first service listed to promote infant mental health under universal/preventive services. The explanatory text then says, "Universal/Preventive Services - are aimed at improving child development, parenting, knowledge and behavior, and infant mental health for all families within their service range."  The number one policy recommendation in this document is to "Integrate Infant Mental Health into all child and family service systems." They then state their rationale: "Pediatric, early care and education, and family support providers have roles in providing education, conducting assessment, performing interventions, and care management." 

        Regardless of whether ones child is considered "at risk," even by the undefined criteria used in the above quote; regardless of whether  parents plan to avoid public preschool or education programs; and regardless of where a child is at home, at the doctors office, in preschool or daycare, or any government child health or education program -- to these bureaucrats, ALL means ALL.

        The federal Action Plan goes on to say, "Propose a comprehensive approach at the Federal and State levels for the appropriate intervention for children identified to be at risk for mental disorders in early childhood settings." Even if it was constitutionally proper for the federal government to intervene in childrens mental health, "intervention" means almost exclusively chemical intervention with psychotropic drugs. This is true because government programs rarely pay for any kind of therapy other than medication. In addition, the pharmaceutical industry, mental health advocacy groups, and professional organizations all want their share of profits and government grants. 

        Dr. David Willis, Medical Director of the Northwest Early Childhood Institute in Portland, Oregon, and a key opinion leader with influence on government policies affecting children's mental health, confirmed the primacy of medications in childrens mental health when he said in January, 2004 Pediatric News, "Psychopharmacology is on the horizon as preventive therapy for children with genetic susceptibility to mental health problems." 

        Apparently it makes no difference to infant and childhood mental health proponents that accurate diagnosis, safety, and efficacy of medications is nearly non-existent in very young children. In 2001, Dr. Benedetto Vitiello, director of Child and Adolescent Treatment and Preventive Interventions Research Branch for the National Institutes of Mental Health, acknowledged "the diagnostic uncertainty surrounding most manifestations of psychopathology in early childhood."  [10/2001, "Psychopharmacology for Young Children: Clinical Needs and Research Opportunities Pediatrics," Vol. 108, No. 4, pp. 983-989] Every drug mentioned in the Texas Medication Algorithm Project as recommended by the NFC is under a black box warning, the FDA's most serious warning before a ban.

        The mental health establishment and their Congressional and bureaucratic apologists, have with vehement and vitriolic statements denied the concept of universal mental health screening programs:
Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH), chairman of the Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations Subcommittee during floor debate on the Paul amendment against coerced screening:
We have never proposed in appropriations any program of universal mental screening, and all it does really, this amendment, is to stigmatize the issue of mental health. The sponsor mentions $26 million, and let me point out that the funds provided in this bill that respond to recommendations put forward in the final report of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, "Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America," go toward State incentive grants for transformation to support the development of comprehensive State mental health plans, and has absolutely no funding included for universal mental health screening.
         Anyone looking at the government funded graphic shown above can see that these denials are useless. They would be comical if the incalculable damage done by scientifically invalid, dangerous, and ineffective screening and treatment programs to the lives of children, parental rights and freedom in general was not so enormously tragic. Thousands of children have been injured or killed by dangerous and ineffective medications prescribed after being falsely labeled mentally ill by these vague and dubious screening programs.

        Although parental consent for any kind of screening and stopping coerced medication are vital, the even more immediate issue is to fight back against the presumption that any government local, state, or federal -- has the right to screen, treat, or intervene in the emotional life of any citizen, much less an innocent and vulnerable infant. Here and now, EdWatch is sounding the alarm. Will you join with us to protect the lives and minds of your babies?

        These wretched programs must be dismantled. The US House rejected the massive Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations bill last week. In that funding bill, the state incentive transformation grants to implement the NFC recommendations and the federal Action Plan (FMHAA) were slated to receive $6 million more in funding this year than last. A Senate inspired "demonstration project for mental health screening" was also included.

        Please stay tuned for more information on this, as well as what can be done to fight early child mental health. Because funding action is very fluid in Washington at this time, it may actually be possible for the outcome to change. If there is no final compromise on the full funding bill, due to hurricane and war costs, these and other infant and child mental health programs would continue to be funded at the same level as last year, instead of being increased. It is not impossible that one or more of these terrible programs could be eliminated altogether.


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