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March 9, 2006

Mental Health Screening for Preschoolers
S.F. 2841 in the Minnesota Senate

        SF 2841 adds mental health screening to the early childhood developmental assessments. Dr. Karen Effrem testified against it in the Senate Early Childhood Finance Division.

        SF 2841 currently includes written, parental consent. However, it establishes the state as overseer and definer of the mental health of the children of Minnesota, and this is simply not the role of government in our families. In addition, history is full of objectionable policies being passed as voluntary measures, then quickly becoming mandatory or being bypassed, with parents effectively sidelined. The federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) is one example. It was passed to protect students and parents from invasive school surveys, but it has become almost entirely useless.

Road Map for Mental Health System Reform in Minnesota
         Proponents of Mental Health screening have stated their plans to establish universal screening of our children. The 1st recommendation in the Governor's Road Map for Mental Health System Reform in Minnesota for preschool screening is to "Incorporate socioemotional/mental health screening into Minnesotaís Early Childhood Screening program." SF 2841 would accomplish that goal. A further recommendation, #6, incorporates mental health screening into the Minnesota Early Childhood Comprehensive Screening. Its would  "integrate early childhood screening systems to assure that all children ages birth to five are screened early and continuously for the presence of health, socioemotional or developmental needs." (p. 165, emphasis added.)

        The Road Map is clear about its destination. Some of the purpose stated on page 162 are:         In other words, mental health screening as part of developmental screening is a first essential step toward universal mental health screening for all Minnesota children.

        Mental health screening is not at all scientific in the manner of vision and hearing screening. SF 2841 attempts to establish mental health screening as equally reliable. In fact, data clearly demonstrates that mental health screening is highly unreliable. Mental health screening in children is very subjective.  It is also very dangerous to our children, because treatment almost always results in prescriptions for powerful, expensive drugs with dangerous potential side effects, including suicide. FDA hearings revealed that 10% of boys in K-12 are currently on medication. This percentage will skyrocket if M/H screening is instituted as part of preschool screening.
        
For more information, link to these resources:
  Infant mental health (11/23/05)

  Myths and Facts Regarding Mental Health Screening Programs and Psychiatric Drug Treatment for Children (pdf)
 Dangers of Universal Mental Health Screening, Briefing Book


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