Friday, September 17, 2004
Sept. 9, the 'Ron Paul Amendment' was defeated in the House of
Representatives by a vote of 95-315.
The Amendment would have prevented the funds sought by an
appropriations bill (HR 5006) from being used for the
mandatory mental-health screening of Americans, including
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, a practicing physician for more
than 30 years, campaigned against the new program on the
grounds that it negates parental rights and would encourage
the over-medication of children.
Prior to the House vote, Paul had vehemently denounced mandatory mental-health screening
in a letter to fellow congressmen.
Paul wrote, "[P]sychotropic drugs are increasingly
prescribed for children who show nothing more than children's
typical rambunctious behavior. Many children have suffered
harmful effects from these drugs. Yet some parents have even
been charged with child abuse for refusing to drug their
children. The federal government should not promote national
mental-health screening programs that will force the use of
these psychotropic drugs such as Ritalin."
The idea of nationally screening school children for mental
health stems from the establishment of the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in
2002. Its mission is to "promote successful community
integration for adults with a serious mental illness and
children with a serious emotional disturbance."
The commission conducted a "comprehensive study of
the…health service delivery system," which found mental health
problems to be under-diagnosed.
A 2004 progress report outlines the government’s
plan to assist those with disabilities, including mental
health problems. The government intends to use government
agencies and services — such as transportation, housing, and
education "to tear down the remaining barriers to full
integration [of the disabled] into American life."
Thus, as WorldNetDaily reports, the commission’s
panel "recommended comprehensive mental health screening for
‘consumers of all ages,’ including preschool children…Schools,
the panel concluded, are in a ‘key position’ to screen the 52
million students and 6 million adults who work at the
The public schools would address "the mental health needs
of youth in the education system" through "prevention, early
identification, early intervention, and treatment." How
Many practical objections have been offered to
the mental screening of the 52 million students and the 6
million adults at schools.
— Mental health diagnoses are subjective and, to be of
value, must be formed by trained professionals who test and
observe subjects over time. The expense and magnitude of
screening 58 million people means diagnoses are likely to be
made quickly and by poorly trained people.
— The criteria for diagnosing mental disabilities such as
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are vague and a matter of
heated debate within the medical community itself.
— Political pressure can make schools prone to over-apply
social programs, especially when they are connected to the
continuation of funding.
— Medicating children for behavioral problems could easily
become a form of social control. That is, school authorities
could use medication to prevent behavior of which they simply
disapproved, such as rebelliousness.
— The screenings may be used to force parents to put their
children on psychiatric medication. Some parents who have
refused to do so under current policies have been threatened
or charged with "child abuse" for no other reason than their
— Many of the psychiatric medications administered to
children have been only approved for and tested on adults. The
long-term effect on developing children has yet to be
—The known side effects can be severe. Indeed, at least
two deaths have been attributed to
prescribing Ritalin to children.
Critics also raise matters of principle. First and foremost
is the question of parental rights. It is not clear what rights
— if any — parents preserve over the medical treatment of
their children. Will they be threatened with the removal of
their child if they refuse to place a son or daughter on
Will children who resist medication be expelled from a
school that is supported by their parents' taxes? If so, the
government seems to be telling parents that education is a
privilege for which parents must not only pay but for which
they must also surrender medical control over their
And what of medical privacy rights? It defies credibility
that psychiatric records on tens of millions of school
children would be covered by anything resembling
patient-doctor confidentiality. Public school records that
include intimate details of medical history may well follow
children into adulthood.
Accusations have also been voiced: specifically, that the
program is driven by political-pharmaceutical alliances that
benefits drug companies.
Critics point to the fact that the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP)
has been used as a model program.
But, according to whistleblower Allen Jones, an employee of the Pennsylvania
Office of the Inspector General, TMAP promotes "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."
The bill has moved onto the Senate, where it
will be heard before the end of the year.
Even for those who advocate the medication of problem
children, this measure contains too many uncertainties and
possibilities of abuse.
Hopefully, the Senate will find a champion to call out for
an amendment similar to that proposed by Rep. Ron Paul.
Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a
research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland,
Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and
articles, including the new book, "Liberty for Women: Freedom
and Feminism in the 21st Century" (Ivan R. Dee/Independent
Institute, 2002). She lives with her husband in