Inside Illinois
Illinois, eye of national mental health storm

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

By Rhonda Robinson, Leader correspondent

SPRINGFIELD -- When members of the Illinois House voted to pass the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Act in 2003, Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago, 31st Dist.] predicted, “I’m sure [the bill] is gonna fly out of here, but I guarantee each and every last one of you that this will be revisited.“

Flowers was one of only five representatives to vote against the measure.

Flowers was right.

As Illinois prepares to become the first state to implement President Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, controversy is brewing around the nation over its “Orwellian” mandates, as one observer called them.

So far, only Internet sites are exploring the controversy, with newfound information traveling throughout a nationwide network of “intelligence” gatherers and disseminators on a daily basis.

The concerns are sweeping - over pharmaceutical influence on the Food and Drug Administration and medical profession, over lack of or faulty clinical trials, and over political corruption.

The Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership, charged with putting the Children’s Mental Health Act into action and overseeing its implementation, stated in its preliminary plan last month it will “explore strategies for maximizing the purchase of psychotropic drugs from the state Pharmacy at discount prices.”

In Pennsylvania, Dr. Stefan Kruszewski, a clinical professor of psychiatry has filed a federal lawsuit against state officials and six pharmaceutical companies, alleging they, “through the use of political friendships, money and other emoluments, effectively achieved a level of influence with Pennsylvania’s state government that allowed them to abuse state finances and state citizens with impunity.”

Kruszewski conducted medical reviews and appeals for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and was a consultant for the Bureau of Program Integrity.

Kruszewski’s lawsuit “centers upon making money at the expense of public finances through the improper use of state employees and custodial populations including dependent children.”

Kruszewski charged the misuse of medications on innocent humans, deaths of children under the care of the Pennsylvania Office of Medical Assistance, and the improper adoption of drug company sponsored algorithms.

On August 27, New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced he had settled a major lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures the popular antidepressant, Paxil.

Spitzer charged that GSK committed fraud by hiding Paxil study results that “not only failed to show any benefit for the drug in children but demonstrated that children taking Paxil were more likely to become suicidal than those taking a placebo,” according to the August 26 New York Times.

The NFC recommends that states incorporate the Texas Medication Algorithm Project, known as T-MAP, as a model to follow. These are flowcharts prescribing the use of specific drugs for specific mental illness diagnoses.

About T-MAP are questions of pharmaceutical influence among state policy makers, the safety of antidepressants in children, the FDA approval process, and program oversight.

According to the British Medical Journal, the Texas project, which promotes only the newest, more expensive antidepressants, began in 1995 “as an alliance of individuals from the pharmaceutical industry, the University of Texas, and the mental health and corrections systems of Texas. The project was funded by a Robert Wood Johnson grant - and by several drug companies.”

The RWJ foundation funded the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Task Force, which produced the report Illinois’ Children’s Mental Health Act of 2003 is based on.

The BMJ ran the story that sparked the current controversy by reporting the findings of Allen Jones, an Investigator in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General, Bureau of Special Investigations, who had to file a whistleblower report to preserve his rights to speak to the press.

Jones told the BMJ, "The same political/pharmaceutical alliance that generated the Texas project was behind the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission,” which, according to Jones’ whistleblower report, was "poised to consolidate the T-MAP effort into a comprehensive national policy to treat mental illness with expensive, patented medications of questionable benefit and deadly side effects, and to force private insurers to pick up more of the tab."

Meeting minutes of the NASMHPD Medical Directors Council in May 2002 list Illinois as one of eight states employing some degree of medication algorithm activity.

Where T-Map is implemented fully, children in state care, prison inmates, and patients in state mental hospitals are all subject to the use of these algorithms.

In Illinois, “The same system, the Department of Children and Family Services, that has given children - wards of the state - psychotropic drugs, don’t know the consequences of their actions,” said Flowers in objection to ICMHA.

“These are the same children who I’ve seen acting out simply because they’re guilty of wanting to be returned home to their parents, as opposed to being turned into the juvenile justice system because they don’t want to be abused and misused,” said Flowers.

© 2004 -- all rights reserved


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