Big Brother is on the march. A plan to subject all children to mental health screening is under way, and pharmaceutical companies are gearing up for bigger sales of psychotropic drugs.
Like most liberal big-spending ideas, this one was slipped into the law under cover of soft semantics. Its genesis was the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health created by President George W. Bush in 2002.
The commission recommends "routine and comprehensive" testing and mental health screening for every child in the United States, including preschoolers. The president has instructed 25 federal agencies to develop a plan to implement the commission's recommendations.
The commission proposes using electronic medical records for mental health interrogation of both children and adults for mental illnesses in school and during routine physical exams. The commission also recommends integrating electronic health records and personal health information systems.
It recommends "linkage" of these mental examinations with "state-of-the-art treatments" using "specific medications for specific conditions." That means prescribing more expensive patented antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs.
Illinois became the first state to jump on board. By near-unanimous votes in 2003, the General Assembly passed the $10 million Illinois Children's Mental Health Act creating a Children's Mental Health Partnership, which is expected to become a model for other states. The partnership's plan, released July 16, calls for periodic social and emotional developmental examinations to be administered to all children, and for all women to be interrogated for depression during pregnancy and up to a year postpartum. When the partnership showcased this plan with five public hearings stacked with bureaucrats and social service workers, a political tempest erupted, with state legislators saying they had no idea this was what they had voted for.
Illinois legislators were shocked to hear the details. The plan includes periodic developmental exams for children ages 0-18 years, a statewide data-reporting system to track information on each child, social-emotional development screens with all mandated school exams in kindergarten, fourth grade and ninth grade, and report cards on children's social-emotional development.
The plan is to add mental health assessment to the state's physical examination certificate, along with mandatory immunization records. All children in Illinois, unless religiously exempt, are required to have up-to-date health examinations and immunizations for school entry.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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