By Jim Brown
(AgapePress) - A Texas pro-family group is voicing opposition to a bill in the state legislature that would implement President Bush's mandatory mental health screening initiative.
HB 470 is part of President Bush's "New Freedom Initiative," which is a plan to screen the entire U.S. population for mental illness. Under the plan, public schools would screen students for "co-occurring mental and substance abuse disorders."
Mary Lynn Gerstenschlager is the education liaison for Texas Eagle Forum. She is concerned that the legislation requires children as young as preschool age to undergo psychiatric screening whether their parents consent or not.
"We would like to ... see that no federal funds are used for mental health screening in public schools in Texas, or in primary health care either," Gerstenschlager explains. "So if we could remove language from the bill that refers to mental health screening, we would be very happy about that -- because we realize that the purpose of this bill is for MH/MR [mental health / mental retardation] reforms."
The Texas Eagle Forum spokeswoman contends the bill trumps parental rights and intrudes into family business.
"For screening for mental health disorders in primary health care, that means your local doctor," she says. "Will that be when your child goes [to the doctor's office] for a camp physical, or to go to church camp, or to enter school? Will this be at a routine, well-baby checkup [during which] your doctor will screen for mental health disorders?"
Gerstenschlager notes the bill has been given top priority in the legislature, considering it is being promoted heavily by Republican Governor Rick Perry. On the national scene, Texas Congressman Ron Paul has introduced a bill that forbids federal funds from being used for any mental health screening of students without the consent of parents.
Texas Eagle Forum (http://www.texaseagle.org)