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Family Advocate Opposes Illinois’ Plan for Mandatory Mental Health Screening

By Jim Brown, AgapePress

An Illinois pro-family activist is urging parents to find out what stage their state is at in implementing President Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health — and to strongly oppose the plan.

On June 30, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich received a final proposal from the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership. Two years ago, the state Legislature charged the Partnership with crafting a plan to reform Illinois’ mental health system. The plan calls for the screening of all Illinois children ages zero to 18 and pregnant women for mental health problems.

However, privacy advocates like Karen Hayes with Concerned Women for America of Illinois feel local public schools should not be performing psychiatric evaluations of students without informed parental consent. Often, says Hayes, parents are not aware their children are being screened.

“There’s a real high risk of misdiagnosis [by the schools],” Hayes cautions, adding her concern about a “very definite link” between the testing and some drug companies. “We found in other states that the drug companies were actually funding some of the task forces because there are all these psychotropic drugs on the market that are being promoted,” she says — and many of those drugs, her group points out, have only been approved for and tested on adults.

Hayes contends that with the president’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, the door has been opened for groups like “TeenScreen” — a supposed suicide prevention program designed by pharmaceutical industry-backed officials at Columbia University. She explains:

“What can take place is that a note is sent home saying [the school is] going to be doing this screening,” she says. “And if there is no objection that comes back after the children are handed a note to take home — and you know most notes end up left in backpacks … then the school believes that they have parental consent to go ahead with the screening.” Concerned Women for America of Illinois has suggested to the state that it institute an “opt in” format for parents, instead of this passive “opt out” plan.

According to Hayes, the Illinois screening program is not about mental health, but rather government control of attitudes and beliefs. In her estimation, she says, the expansion of government in schools and daycares can be both intrusive and costly.