Federal funding for universal mental health screening

Issues and Action in Education,

An e-letter produced by EdWatch, a nonprofit organization.

April June 19, 2006

         On June 13th, the House Appropriations Committee passed a spending bill for the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health/Human Services, and Education. The Committee ignored most of President Bush's recommendations for cuts in education spending. Two of the President's recommended cuts for mental health in education were Foundations for Learning Grants (infants and early childhood mental health) and Mental Health Integration in the Schools.

        Federal grants for universal mental health screening programs are driving state policy all over the country. State legislatures are snapping up federal dollars for state universal mental health screening programs, frequently leaving elected legislators in the dark about what they are voting for. In both Illinois and Indiana, for example, the programs were well on their way to being implemented before the public or legislators knew about them. (See "Myths and Facts Regarding Mental Health Screening Programs".)

        Federal funding for state mental heath screening programs should be cut. Federal central planners should not be hooking states on dangerous and invasive mental health policies for children and even infants using our tax dollars for bait. Instead of cutting funds, however, the psycho-pharmaceutical establishment's lobbyists are resisting cuts and trying to expand funding. This has resulted in 35-300% increases in state Medicaid expenditures for mental health drugs. So far this year, they have been successful in stopping the President's recommended cuts.(See " Major Problems with Mental Health Screening for Congress".)

EdWatch recommends cuts or elimination of the following:
(For more detail, click here.)

1.)       State Incentive Grants for Transformation (SITG - $19,796,000)
         These grants allow states to put in place the recommendations of the highly controversial "New Freedom Commission" (NFC) Report on Mental Health. There is much evidence that universal mental health screening, starting from a very early age, is one of the main goals of the NFC. These goals include that “Early mental health screening, assessment and referral to services are common practice.”

        SITGs dish out "technical assistance" money to NGO's like the National Association for State Mental Health Program Directors, whose members include NFC Chairman Michael Hogan. Hogan brought the controversial drug treatment program TMAP to Ohio while being paid by the pharmaceutical industry.  People like Hogan and these groups have a  vested interest in expanding the mental health system. They have been uncritical supporters of the screening and medication recommendations in the NFC report, completely ignoring contradictory scientific and medical evidence. 

2.)      Suicide Prevention ($26,730,000), also called Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Act enacted in 2004.
        Among the activities funded are mental health screening programs, particularly TeenScreen. Specific problems associated with TeenScreen include the use of passive consent in violation of Congressional intent, an 84% false positive rate, its lack of effectiveness, and the overuse of dangerous and ineffective psychiatric medication. Programs like these are bankrupting already overburdened public programs like Medicaid and foster care. 

3.)     State Early Childhood Comprehensive System (SECCS)
        "SECCS funds grants for states to develop mental health early intervention services targeted to infants, toddlers, preschool, and school-aged children." These are the grants that are steering states to establish universal infant mental health screening.

        For example, Minnesota's Road Map for Mental Health System Transformation says on p. 165 that the purpose of this program is "to coordinate and integrate early childhood screening systems to assure that all children ages birth to five are screened early and continuously
for the presence of health, socioemotional [mental health] or developmental needs." (Emphasis added)

         According to the Center on the Emotional and Social Foundations for Early Learning, South Dakota's strategic plan for infant mental health lists this Orwellian vision:

"All Children in South Dakota are supported by the community through a comprehensive system of care that meets their social, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs." (Emphasis added).

4.)      Foundations for Learning Grants ($1,000,000)
        This is a mental health program funded through No Child Left Behind for children ages birth through age seven. It provides “mental health,” among other services, in order “to deliver services to eligible children and their families that foster eligible children’s emotional, behavioral, and social development.” These services are based on such ridiculously vague eligibility criteria, as “the child has been exposed to violence” or “the child has been removed from child care, Head Start, or preschool for behavioral reasons or is at risk of being so removed;” or ‘‘the child has been exposed to parental depression or other mental illness.”  The federal government has no proper role or constitutional authority to be involved in setting norms for or fostering anyone’s mental health, much less very young children.

The President has recommended this program for elimination and we heartily concur with that assessment.

5.)     Violence Prevention Grants – Safe Schools/Healthy Students ($75,710,000)
         These grants involve mental health screening programs for both infants and TeenScreen with all of their lack of scientific merit and invasiveness.  In addition, they use a program funded under the NCLB Safe and Drug Free Schools Program that labels children as potentially violent and or mentally unstable based on attitudes, values and beliefs. It is called Early Warning, Timely Response.  Among the purported warning signs of violence is “intolerance for others and prejudicial attitudes.”  The US DOE website for this program states:
“All children have likes and dislikes. However, an intense prejudice toward others based on racial, ethnic, religious, language, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and physical appearance when coupled with other factors may lead to violent assaults against those who are perceived to be different.”
        Given the multiple problems with the mental health screening and psychiatric drug treatment for children already mentioned, as well as the politically correct thought control aspects of this program, we urge its further reduction and preferably its elimination.

6.)      Mental Health Integration in Schools ($4,900,000)
        This is yet another vehicle for mental health screening to be implemented in schools.  Due to government and private insurance reimbursement patterns, treatment almost always means with psychotropic medications, very few of which are actually approved for children and every groups of which is under the FDA’s most serious black box warnings for serious if not fatal side effects.

        The President has recommended eliminating this program and we heartily concur with that assessment.

Stay tuned for more information and for what you can do to fight these programs.
 Click here to order Dr. Karen Effrem's powerful and informative DVD
on the dangers of universal mental health screening starting in infancy.

Ed Watch
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See also Brave New Schools, Chapters 2 & 3