105 Peavey Rd, Suite 116, Chaska, MN 55318
952-361-4931 www.edwatch.org - edwatch@lakes.com

August 14, 2006

 Using Minorities for Mental Health Research
"What we experienced in Minnesota last month happened to blacks in Mississippi and Alabama. Parents and residents were denied their God-given right to participate in matters that affect them, their children and families."

"The latest report is that, while residents are voting today, speakers are promoting the University's one-sided agenda and all voters are receiving a promotional handout before they ballot. No opposing speakers or handouts are being allowed to the microphone. "

         The University of Minnesota is determined to build a $60-plus million Mental Health Research Center in the middle of Minneapolis' North Side at Plymouth and Penn. Area residents are just as determined to stop it. The neighborhood is hungry for local business enterprise. They want economic development on that prime spot. Jobs are scarce and gang violence is a growing menace. The university finds that situation perfect for their Mental Health Research Center.

The University Northside Partnership (Initiative)
        To North Side residents, the U refers to their plan as a "Family Center," but to their own University personnel, the Initiative is a "Research Center." In fact, the U sees the partnership between university planners, mental health researchers and the inner city as a model for the nation. The Minneapolis Star Tribune joined in to editorialize in support of the Center, dismissing objections, calling for the University to move forward with their plans, and then refusing to print opposition letters from local North Side residents.

        At a public meeting in May, 2006, university representatives explained to skeptical parents and residents that they are talking with "many people and organizations to better understand what the community needs are and to develop joint plans to respond to those needs." The fact is, however, that the university has had a plan in place at least since June, 2005, when they hired Dante Cicchetti to head the program, more than a year before residents had heard a whisper of it.  A University handout at the May meeting admitted they are "committed to creating a community-based program for Dante Cicchetti" from New York.
  Dante Cicchetti holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and child development with minors in behavior genetics, neuroscience and psychophysiology. Behavioral genetics is based on the belief that genetics is the major factor in determining behavior.

        Behavioral genetics is extremely controversial. Is there, for example, a genetic marker associated with increased criminal activity? Why would Cicchetti, a behavior geneticist, situate his Mental Health Research Center in a high density minority and high crime area? Residents fear the same intentions as the highly controversial and thoroughly discredited federal Violence Initiative of the 1980's. Black children were compared with "monkeys in the jungle" and targeted for spinal taps and "preventive" psychotropic drug treatment, as chronicled in Dr. Peter Breggin's book The War Against Children of Color.

        The University's Center for Early Education and Development (CEED) is also tied into the Northside Initiative. CEED has been a prime mover at the Minnesota legislature to set up an early childhood government system for all and to authorize schools and government to oversee the mental health of our children from birth. " Bridging Education and Mental Health" and the " Minnesota Infant Mental Health Project" are examples of their focus, and CEED is developing an Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Certificate Program. This program would train people in screening and intervening in the mental health of babies, despite admissions by experts of difficulties in diagnosing and despite the lack of scientific evidence for both drug and non-drug treatments.

         Cicchetti's plan for studying the problems of Northside children and families "from the molecular level", starting in infancy, has hit a storm of resistance and outrage from parents who have seen their children increasingly labelled and treated with prescription drugs for mental health issues in the schools. While parents, many of them single moms, battle to keep their kids off street drugs, the schools are forcing them onto prescription drugs that are the chemical equivalent of cocaine. Studying their children's genetic make-up and the supposed yet unproven link to mental illness and crime rightly strikes them as racist.
Every Saturday since February, 2006, when the mental health research plan came to light, a protest has formed on the corner of Penn and Plymouth Avenues in North Minneapolis. Carol White, Director of African Americans Concerned Together (AACT) has done her research. As a parent, former Minneapolis school board member and community leader, White represents the determination of parents and community members to resist treating their issues of broken families, crime, drugs, and poor school performance as a psychopathology of their infants, toddlers, adolescents and adults.

        "We don't want invasive probing, therapy and another government handout," White states. "We want to put our families back in order, get our kids free of drugs, have quality education, and develop businesses so we have jobs in our neighborhoods."

State Mental Health Plans
        White has cause for concern. The University's handout linked the Northside Initiative with the Mental Health Action Group. The Action Group has a "Road Map" for change, endorsed by the Pawlenty administration, which is clear about its destination. Some of the purposes stated on page 162 are:         In other words, the Road Map is for universal mental health screening for all Minnesota children, a plan that would establish the state as overseer and definer of the mental health of the children of Minnesota. This is unscientific, ineffective, unethical and simply not the role of government in our families.

        Data clearly demonstrates that mental health screening is highly unreliable. Mental health screening in children is very subjective and often falsely labels young children for life. It is also very dangerous to the health of our children, because treatment almost always results in prescriptions for powerful, expensive drugs with dangerous, even fatal, potential side effects, including suicide. FDA hearings revealed that 10% of boys in K-12 are currently on medication.

Election Shams
        AACT and a Northside group called Parents Speak Out have given the University notice that a Mental Health Research Center is unwanted in their community. To re-establish credibility, the University partnered with a local organization, the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council (NRRC), and with the League of Women Voters to have a neighborhood vote on their plan. Senator Linda Higgins was also involved.

        The "vote," however, was a sham. "Emails and flyers announcing the election," stated Carol White, "were sent or given to people selected by board members and staff. If you didn't have email or were not a friend or supporter of the Initiative, you would not have known."

        "What we experienced in MInnesota last month," White continued, "happened to blacks in Mississippi and Alabama. Parents and residents were denied their God-given right to participate in matters that affect them, their children and families." The "vote" was closed more than an hour before the announced closing time. In an overwhelmingly black neighborhood, seventy-five percent of those allowed to vote were white. Even the University of Minnesota white staff were allowed to vote.

        A grievance was filed against the groups overseeing the vote. The grievance denounced the election tactics as oppressive, disrespectful, racist and discriminatory on the part of the University and public officials. It called on the University to cease and desist its Mental Health Research Center process.

        A new vote is scheduled for today, August 14th. Once again, balloting is marked by voting irregularities. Election announcements have been spotty. The balloting is limited this time to residents who didn't vote last month, but results from the July election, which was open to anybody, will be merged with today's vote. The latest live report from the single balloting location is that, while residents are voting today, speakers on microphones are promoting the University's one-sided agenda and all voters are given a promotional handout prior to casting their ballot. No opposing speakers or handouts are being allowed. The outrageous sham continues.

        In a similar reflection of rising public resistance to universal mental health screening, hundreds of people rallied in Indiana last month to stop a state plan that would subject every Indiana child to mental health testing. According to opponents of the plan it would "steamroll parental rights on mental health issues." One speaker stated, We do not believe government should mandate mental health."

Learn more
Sounding the alarm on Infant Mental Health
The Dangers of Universal Mental Health Screening" DVD, Karen R. Effrem, MD, pediatrician, education researcher, and board member of EdWatch.

EdWatch Fall Conference

Friday, October 13, 2006  6:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 14, 2006   9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Embassy Suites Hotel Airport
Bloomington, Minnesota
Related topics:  
Karen R. Effrem, M.D.,
    View Bio
"Shrinks in the Nursery: The Merging of Mental Health and Preschool
Carol White,
View Bio
African Americans Acting Together (AACT)
Minority and Low-income Families as Psychiatric Guinea Pigs

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