The New Freedom Commission and Its Dangerous Plan

By John Eberhard
03/24/05

In April 2002 the NFC, the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, was created to "conduct a comprehensive study of the United States mental health service delivery system, including public and private sector providers, and to advise the President on methods of improving the system."

Fifteen months later, the NFC released its report, "Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America."

According to a November 2004 article by Dave Eberhart (no relation to me) on Newsmax.com, "The commission concluded that there is a need to search for mental disorders – especially in children – and the best way to do this was to institute mandatory mental health screening for everyone, starting with preschoolers."

Numerous media outlets have been critical of the commission’s report, including the British Medical Journal, World Net Daily News, The New American, talk show hosts such as G. Gordon Liddy, Dr. Laura, and groups such as Concerned Women of America, Eagle Forum and the Alliance for Human Research Protection.

The Association of American Physicians & Surgeons (AAPS) criticized the report’s recommendations as "a dangerous scheme that will heap even more coercive pressure on parents to medicate children with potentially dangerous side effects."

Peter Dockx, Director of Governmental Affairs for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a group sponsored by the Church of Scientology, stated "Despite the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered a ‘black box’ warning label to be placed on all antidepressants that states that antidepressants increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents, the NFC not only recommends the same suicidal-inducing drugs be prescribed to children, but recommends an approach that will greatly increase the number of children prescribed these drugs."

U.S. Representative Ron Paul, M.D. (R-TX) stated "At issue is the fundamental right of parents to decide what medical treatment is appropriate for their children. The notion of federal bureaucrats ordering potentially millions of youngsters to take psychotropic drugs like Ritalin strikes an emotional chord with American parents, who are sick of relinquishing more and more parental control to government."

"It’s not hard to imagine a time 20 or 30 years from now when government psychiatrists stigmatize children whose religious, social, or political values do not comport with those of the politically correct, secular state. American parents must do everything they can to remain responsible for their children’s well-being. If we allow governments to become intimately involved with our children’s minds and bodies, we will have lost the final vestiges of parental authority. Strong families are the last line of defense against an overreaching bureaucratic state," concluded Paul.

Based on NFC recommendations, $44 million was originally requested from the federal government to begin implementing the mandatory mental health screening program. Despite the best efforts of Rep. Paul and others, last November Congress did allocate $20 million towards incentives for the states to implement the screenings.

Peter Dockx from CCHR points out that the psychiatric model of treatment for mental disorders consists almost exclusively of prescribing strong psychotropic drugs, even to children, despite recent findings by the Food and Drug Administration that such drugs increase the risk of suicide, and despite the fact that there is no scientific basis for psychiatric diagnoses.

Dockx states "The NFC report states that ‘mental illnesses are shockingly common,’ but ignores the fact that there are no medical or scientific means by which to diagnose mental ‘illnesses.’ There are no blood tests, brain scans or ‘chemical imbalance’ tests to validate any mental ‘disorder’ as an illness or disease. With no scientific/medical criteria to substantiate these claims, anyone could be diagnosed as mentally ill based solely on a checklist of behaviors."

Those interested in more data on this can see a copy of CCHR’s Executive Summary and position paper at:
http://www.commonsensegovernment.com/NFC-FACT-SHEET-6.pdf

You can also see the article on Newsmax.com at:
http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2004/11/11/140125.shtml

Summary

Even if a person favors psychiatric treatment in general (I don’t), I think there is enough data here to suggest that the mandatory mental health screenings proposed for all Americans by the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, are not a good idea. This is quite a bit too much Big Brother for my tastes.

Rep. Ron Paul is right. This is a slippery slope. Once you implement a program like this, you could use it against anyone whose ideas, political philosophy, or religious beliefs you don’t like. America has always been the freest country on the face of the Earth. But it would take a giant leap backwards with the implementation of such a program.

Plus, the FDA has found that taking strong psychotropic drugs such as Ritalin increase the risk of suicidal behavior, and have ordered warnings be placed on the bottles of all antidepressants. Yet the NFC recommends a program that will inevitably lead to more prescribing of these drugs for children and adults. It seems to me that the only sane person who would favor such a plan would have to be severely misinformed, or own stock in the drugs companies that make these antidepressants. The drug companies seem to be the only ones who would gain from the plan. Certainly the public would not.

The Parental Consent act of 2005

There is a bill in Congress called H.R. 181, the "Parental Consent Act of 2005," sponsored by Representatives Ron Paul and Tom Feeney, which will prohibit federal funding for any kind of universal mental health screening.

Here are some relevant excerpts from the bill itself:

"2) The 1999 Surgeon General’s report on mental health admitted the serious conflicts in the medical literature regarding the definitions of mental health and mental illness when it said, `In other words, what it means to be mentally healthy is subject to many different interpretations that are rooted in value judgments that may vary across cultures. The challenge of defining mental health has stalled the development of programs to foster mental health (Secker, 1998). . . .’."

"(3) The Surgeon General’s report also says, `The diagnosis of mental disorders is often believed to be more difficult than diagnosis of somatic or general medical disorders since there is no definitive laboratory test or abnormality in brain tissue that can identify the illness.’."

"(4) Accurate mental health diagnosis of children is difficult as admitted by the Surgeon General’s report that says, `The science is challenging because of the ongoing process of development. The normally developing child hardly stays the same long enough to make stable measurements. Adult criteria for illness can be difficult to apply to children and adolescents, when the signs and symptoms of mental disorders are often also the characteristics of normal development.’."

"(5) Authors of the bible of psychiatric diagnosis, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, admit that the diagnostic criteria for mental illness are vague, saying, `DSM-IV criteria remain a consensus without clear empirical data supporting the number of items required for the diagnosis. . . . Furthermore, the behavioral characteristics specified in DSM-IV, despite efforts to standardize them, remain subjective. . . .’ (American Psychiatric Association Committee on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV 1994), pp. 1162-1163)."

"(6) Because of the subjectivity of psychiatric diagnosis, it is all too easy for a psychiatrist to label a person’s disagreement with the psychiatrist’s political beliefs a mental disorder."

"(10) A September 2004 Food and Drug Administration hearing found that more than two-thirds of studies of antidepressants given to depressed children showed that they were no more effective than placebo, or sugar pills, and that only the positive trials were published by the pharmaceutical industry. The lack of effectiveness of antidepressants has been known by the Food and Drug Administration since at least 2000 when, according to the Food and Drug Administration Background Comments on Pediatric Depression, Robert Temple of the Food and Drug Administration Office of Drug Evaluation acknowledged the `preponderance of negative studies of antidepressants in pediatric populations’. The Surgeon General’s report said of stimulant medication like Ritalin, `However, psychostimulants do not appear to achieve long-term changes in outcomes such as peer relationships, social or academic skills, or school achievement.’."

"(11) The Food and Drug Administration finally acknowledged in September 2004, that the newer antidepressants are related to suicidal thoughts and actions in children and that this data was hidden for years. The Food and Drug Administration had over 2000 reports of completed suicides from 1987 to 1995 for the drug Prozac alone, which by the agency’s own calculations represent but a fraction of the suicides. Prozac is the only such drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in children."

"(12) Other possible side effects of psychiatric medication used in children include mania, violence, dependence, weight gain, and insomnia from the newer antidepressants; cardiac toxicity including lethal arrhythmias from the older antidepressants; growth suppression, psychosis, and violence from stimulants; and diabetes from the newer anti-psychotic medications."

"(13) Parents are already being coerced to put their children on psychiatric medications and some children are dying because of it. Universal or mandatory mental health screening and the accompanying treatments recommended by the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health will only increase that problem. Across the country, Patricia Weathers, the Carroll Family, the Johnston Family, and the Salazar Family were all charged or threatened with child abuse charges for refusing or taking their children off of psychiatric medications."

"(15) Universal or mandatory mental health screening violates the right of parents to direct and control the upbringing of their children."

"(16) Federal funds should never be used to support programs that could lead to the increased over-medication of children, the stigmatization of children and adults as mentally disturbed based on their political or other beliefs, or the violation of the liberty and privacy of Americans by subjecting them to invasive `mental health screening’ (the results of which are placed in medical records which are available to government officials and special interests without the patient’s consent)."

You can see a full copy of the bill here:
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:H.R.181:

The bill is currently co-sponsored by these Congressmen:
Rep. Todd Akin (MO)
Rep. Ken Calvert (CA)
Rep. Jo Ann Davis (VA)
Rep. Tom Feeney (FL)
Rep. Scott Garrett (NJ)
Rep. Gil Gutknecht (MN)
Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA)
Rep. Walter B. Jones (NC)
Rep. Steve King (IA)
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (MI)
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (TX)
Rep. C.L. Otter (ID)
Rep. Mike Rogers (MI)
Rep. Thomas Tancredo (CO)
Rep. Zach Wamp (TN)
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (MD)
Rep. Dave Camp (MI)
Rep. Terry Everett (AL)
Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC)
Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (VA)
Rep. John Hostettler (IN)
Rep. Henry Hyde (IL)
Rep. Mark R. Kennedy (MN)
Rep. Donald Manzullo (IL)
Rep. Jeff Miller (FL)
Rep. Charlie Norwood (GA)
Rep. Mike Pence (IN)
Rep. Michael K. Simpson (ID)
Rep. Lee Terry (NE)

What You Can Do

1. Go to www.congress.org and type in your zip code to find your U.S. Representative for your district. You may need your Zip+4 to get an accurate accounting of who your representative is. You will then see contact info for your representative, your two Senators, and the President.

2. Write a letter in support of H.R. 181. I don’t mind if you use as much text as you want from this newsletter. There is also a sample letter in the CCHR position paper that you can use or edit. Make four versions of the letter, one to your representative for your district, one each for your two Senators, and one for the President. In your letter to your representative, ask him to co-sponsor H.R. 181 if he is not already on the list above.

3. Email or fax your letter to all four. According to CCHR, faxes are more important than emails, so if you are able to fax it, fax it.

Thanks for your support. This is a vital issue.

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