Traces of the antidepressant Prozac can be found in the nation's drinking water, it has been revealed.
An Environment Agency report suggests so many people are taking the drug nowadays it is building up in rivers and groundwater.
The two prominent psychiatrists clashed frequently over small details and big money, over research priorities and ethics, and in the end Columbia University's child psychiatry department was not big enough to hold both of them, colleagues said.
In the suit, filed last week in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, Dr. Peter Jensen, formerly the director of the Ruane Center for the Advancement of Children’s Mental Health at Columbia, contends that after he was hired by the university in 1999, Dr. David Shaffer, director of the university’s child psychiatry division, continually undermined his work. By making derogatory comments and subjecting Dr. Jensen’s work to unfair scrutiny, the lawsuit says, Dr. Shaffer helped force Dr. Jensen out of his job.
Dr. Jensen — who said that, among other things, Dr. Shaffer had called him “the Brad Pitt of psychiatry” — is seeking about $15 million in damages from the university.
Dr. Jensen’s employment ended in June, after board members voted not to renew his contract. He charges in the suit that the move was improper. The filing of the lawsuit was reported on Wednesday in The New York Sun.
Columbia officials refused to comment on the case, as did Dr. Shaffer.
The two men differed sharply in their professional goals and personal styles, according to several people who had been colleagues of both but who would not comment on the record because of the lawsuit. Dr. Shaffer, a renowned expert on suicide among children and adolescents, is considered restrained and scholarly by nature, and he focuses primarily on the study of biochemical causes of psychological problems, mainly depression.
Dr. Jensen is, by his own admission, outspoken, a media favorite, and interested more in bringing psychiatric care to community settings than in basic research. He is best known for his work on attention deficit disorder.
“I don’t know what the details are, but I can say that these are two very strong-willed people,” said William E. Pelham, director of the Center for Children and Families at the University of Buffalo.
Beyond personalities and specialties, the case revolves in part around charges of ethics violations against Dr. Jensen.
In academic settings, researchers are subject to institutional review boards, which are responsible for ensuring that studies use proper consent procedures and do not endanger patients. Beginning in 2005, according to the suit, officials at the Research Foundation for Mental Health, an independent review board that monitors research grants in the state, identified several violations in Dr. Jensen’s research.
In an interview yesterday, Dr. Jensen would not specify what the violations were. He said that the university had approved other studies, with similar methods, without finding ethics problems. “Academic researchers know, and many have seen this kind of thing before — when a university wants to push someone out, it encourages the person to leave by making life there miserable,” Dr. Jensen said.
The projects that Dr. Jensen has worked on include efforts to encourage community doctors to follow guidelines for treating childhood mental disorders like depression. In studies like these, academic researchers track patients’ progress indirectly, typically without knowing their names. Ethics guidelines, which can vary from institution to institution, often require researchers to get consent before publishing any information on these patients, even if no one is named.
Dr. Jensen and Dr. Shaffer were continually at odds over research, according to colleagues. One of Dr. Shaffer’s projects is TeenScreen, a standardized questionnaire meant to assess potential suicide risk in adolescents. The voluntary screening, which has been used by more than 400 schools, is controversial among many parents and patient advocates, who say it can stigmatize youngsters who are struggling but are not mentally ill or at risk of suicide. Dr. Jensen said that he was less eager to promote TeenScreen than Dr. Shaffer, and that this created tension as well.
The two doctors also drew research financing from the same source, a fund set up by an investor in New York, William J. Ruane, which paid Dr. Jensen’s $220,000 yearly salary. The lawsuit says that the university owed Dr. Jensen three years’ salary.
Columbia stopped paying Dr. Jensen’s salary last summer. He is now director of the Reach Family Institute, a nonprofit group that promotes better treatment for children with developmental problems. Dr. Jensen, who before going to Columbia was the associate director of child and adolescent research at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., said he was still living in university housing.
Two child psychiatrists at Columbia University's medical center are at the center of a legal dispute over what one alleges was a wrongful termination, charging that his colleague spread rumors about him that resulted in his sudden departure from the university.
According to a lawsuit seeking nearly $15 million filed in state Supreme Court late last week against the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, a former director of the Ruane Center for the Advancement of Children's Mental Health, Peter Jensen, is charging that the chief of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry, David Shaffer, systematically orchestrated a "Machiavellian ouster" of Mr. Jensen that started the moment he arrived at Columbia in 1999.
According to the complaint, the animosity stems from a dispute in the 1990s, when Mr. Shaffer allegedly misattributed the denial of several research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health to Mr. Jensen, who was working there at the time.
The two mental health professionals first met in the early 1980s, when Mr. Jensen, who is 57, was completing his post-graduate work in child psychiatry. Mr. Shaffer, 71, served as Mr. Jensen's "long-distance mentor" for years, the suit says.
In 1998, the Ruane Center's benefactor, the philanthropist William Ruane, offered Mr. Jensen a position as its director, at which time, according to the suit, Mr. Shaffer began disclosing his "personal animus and resentment" toward Mr. Jensen.
Since he arrived, Mr. Shaffer has allegedly accused Mr. Jensen of "incompetence," and has told colleagues that one of his continuing goals before retirement was to "get rid of Jensen," according to the suit. At one point, Mr. Shaffer allegedly told Mr. Jensen to "just leave" the position, the suit says. An attorney for Mr. Jensen, Neal Brickman, said Mr. Shaffer was enacting "a personal vendetta" out of "jealousy." Mr. Jensen further charges the university did not follow the proper protocol when terminating his position at the Ruane Center. According to his initial work contract, he was to be entitled to three years' pay should he be removed from his position, but the suit charges his compensation was cut in half in March and that since June the school has stopped paying Mr. Jensen entirely. Attempts to negotiate with the school failed, Mr. Brickman said. A spokesman for Columbia, Robert Hornsby, said the university would not comment on the suit. Messages left for Mr. Shaffer were not returned.
Many public schools have begun incorporating mental health screening tests into their curriculum, and may soon be analyzing family circumstances as a factor influencing low school performance under the No Child Left Behind requirements (NCLB). The proposed We Care Act (H.R. 3762) would amend the NCLB Act to stipulate that “Each State plan shall include an assessment of the nonacademic factors influencing student achievement, a description of public and private organizations and agencies within the State that are working to impact... including but not limited to state departments....and nonprofit youth development and community-based organizations and other entities as appropriate...” Dr. Karen Effrem, an International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology (ICSPP) and EdWatch board member, announced at the ICSPP 2007 Conference congressional meeting that she worries this legislative language will increase government investigation into families’ private lives, arguing that “this is the kind of vague, subjective, intrusive kind of activity that the federal government absolutely should not be doing.” However, such language would also allow school officials to examine the effect of learning disabilities, ADHD, and divorces on student performance.
TeenScreen, a suicide prevention program for 9-18 year olds, works closely with middle and high school professionals to administer either the Columbia Health Screen (CHS) or The Diagnostic Predictive Scales (DPS), and then encourages parents of positively-diagnosed candidates to contact a mental health professional for treatment. TeenScreen is active in 43 of the 50 states, and operates in 450 locations nationwide. A combination of factors, including TeenScreen’s earlier reliance on passive parental consent, the program’s high rate of false positives, and concerns about privacy invasion have caused many groups to publicly denounce its policies.
However, TeenScreen advocates, psychiatrists, and other professionals view psychological testing as an important healthcare component, and argue that public screening services largely benefit society. In response to what it sees as defamation campaigns, TeenScreen defends its success as “being used by some to advance their own anti-mental health agendas.” “For example,” the website adds, “some organizations that have strong feelings against mental health programs persist in claiming that the program is funded by drug companies or is trying to encourage anti-depressant use. Both of these assertions are untrue.” The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, established by President Bush in 2002, considers the purpose of mental healthcare to “to attain each individual’s maximum level of employment, self-care, interpersonal relationships, and community participation.” In other words, mental services are meant to empower individuals to achieve maximum success in all areas of life, thereby enhancing the common good.
The increasing correlation between psychiatric visits and medicated therapy may call into question whether mental screening actually benefits the public. In 2002, the Journal of the American Academy Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) reported that 9 of 10 children referred to a psychiatrist received psychotropic medications as part of their treatment. Dr. Peter Breggin, psychiatrist and founder of ICSPP, asserted that psychotropic drugs are insufficient treatment because they “deaden the person’s response to life. That is not dealing with psychosis. Psychosis has to do with a very complex way of thinking.”
Antidepressants, ADHD amphetamine-based medication, and Selective Serotin Inhibitors (SSRIs) may produce serious side effects, such as cardiac arrhythmia, suicidal behavior, neurological damage, and sudden death, according to the ICSPP, a group dedicated to evaluating “the impact of mental health theories on public policy” and the dangers of specific psychiatric policies. ICSPP leaders argue that the risks of psychotropic drugs outweigh their benefits, especially after an Oregon Drug Effectiveness Review of 2,287 studies found no evidence of long-term effectiveness of ADHD drugs. In 2004, an internal Food and Drug Administration report revealed an association between antidepressants and suicidal behavior.
Even more seriously, increased usage of psychotropic drugs by publicly-subsidized individuals has the potential to greatly expand America’s fiscal burden. The Government Accountability Office predicts that the combined costs of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will exceed 20% of U.S. GDP by 2020. The GAO reports that Medicaid and Medicare have rapidly doubled their proportion of government expenditures in the last 20 years, growing from 10% of federal expenditures in 1986 to 19% of federal spending in 2006.
The use of psychotropic drugs to treat mental disorders such as attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), bipolar syndrome, and depression have increased dramatically over the last half century, and new public policies which increase mental health screening for infants and children will likely further boost sales of psychotropic medications. ADHD diagnoses increased at an annual rate of 9.5% for children and 15.3% for adults, according to the 2007 Medco Drug Trend Report.
Foster children, minorities, and incarcerated prisoners are most likely to be prescribed psychotropic drugs. In 2004, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn found that 60% of Texas foster-care participants were receiving antipsychotic drugs. Texas is the originator of the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP), which links mental illnesses with specific medications. According to the ICSPP, nearly 2/3 of Massachusetts foster children and 55% of Florida foster children take psychiatric drugs beginning as early as 3 years old.
There is a disproportionate concentration of psychotropic drug use among African-American males, with a New York study reporting that African-American boys are 11 times more likely to be placed on mind-altering drugs. In 2003, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) responded to the study’s findings with an action alert asserting that “In some cases these psychiatric prescription drugs are prescribed for what are essentially problems of discipline that may be related to lack of academic challenges or success.”
William Ayres, the prominent child psychiatrist accused of molesting dozens of pre-adolescent boys in San Mateo County over decades, pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him Thursday in his Superior Court arraignment in Redwood City.
Ayres, a 75-year-old former president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, is facing a jury trial on charges that he improperly touched seven male patients ages 9 to 12.
A San Mateo County Superior Court judge ruled after a preliminary hearing last month that the evidence is "quite strong" that Ayres molested the patients.
A jury trial was set by another judge Thursday for March 10 - a date that could be set back by a series of defense motions. Defense attorney Doron Weinberg told the judge that he plans to file two "complex" motions.
Outside the courtroom, Weinberg told reporters that the first motion would be to suppress evidence produced by a search, which yielded the medical records that police used to find alleged victims of the child psychiatrist.
Weinberg, who had already told the press in May that he planned to file such a motion, called the search warrant "improper" and said that it "violates the client-psychotherapist privilege.
If a judge agrees that the warrant should never have been issued, the entire case against Ayres could be invalidated, Weinberg said.
Prosecutors were able to initiate their case against Ayres with the help of three alleged victims, each of whom was located after the search warrant was served.
The criminal case against Ayres developed in the wake of a 2004 civil suit filed by a former patient who claims to have been molested by Ayres three decades ago.
In 2005, Ayres and the former patient - "James Doe," now in his 40s - settled the suit outside of court for an undisclosed amount of money.
Last month, Ayres filed a $1 million civil suit in San Mateo County Superior Court against an insurance company that he claims provided him malpractice insurance between 1979 and 1981, when James Doe was his patient.
Ayres is suing the Cranford Insurance Company/Merrill Management, which allegedly issued the policy, charging breach of contract and bad faith for the company's failure to pay the settlement in the Doe case.
He is also suing the law firm that represented Peninsula Psychiatric Associates - the now-defunct psychiatric facility where Ayres practiced - for professional negligence.
Meanwhile, the parents of James Doe sat in court Thursday with the parent of another alleged victim and shook their heads after learning that Ayres' jury trial would not occur until March.
Although the parents' children are not part of the current criminal case against Ayres - both alleged victims are outside the statute of limitations - they have attended every court date for the child psychiatrist.
A Lawrenceville psychiatrist was back in jail Wednesday with no bond allowed after more women came forward to say he inappropriately touched them, police said Wednesday.
Six more women have given statements to police similar to the first alleged victim, said Capt. Greg Vaughn, a spokesman for the Lawrenceville Police Department. The first woman who complained to police told them that Dr. Mohammad Qureshi asked her to disrobe during a psychiatric session and touched her breasts, he said.
"That's the thing," Vaughn said. None of the women "knows exactly what happened (with the first woman) so when they come forward and tell us (similar details), it's like, 'Wow, same thing.'"
Police charged Qureshi Tuesday afternoon with six counts of felony sexual assault and six counts of misdemeanor sexual battery. Those charges are in addition to one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual battery Qureshi faces as a result of the first woman who contacted police.
In addition to the seven women who have come forward, Vaughn said, there are perhaps two more who have called police but have not given statements.
Qureshi, 45, worked at the Gwinnett-Rockdale-Newton Community Services Board, which assists people suffering from mental illness, retardation or drug addiction. He was dismissed by the board after the first woman complained about him to police.
Qureshi said a few days ago that the allegations were "totally false."
Vaughn declined to give details of how Qureshi convinced the women to disrobe, in order to keep allegations valid if more women come forward.
But, "I could see how he could it," he said. "The red flag should have come up, but you trust your doctor and (if) he talks well enough to do it, I could somewhat see [how it could have happened]."
"Following the death of a 4-year-old
psychiatric drugs last December, state officials have set up a unique
early-warning system to spot preschoolers who may be getting excessive
medication for mental illness. In just the first three months, the
system has flagged the cases of at least 35 children for further
investigation, and the number ..."
To see this recommendation, click on the link below or cut and paste it
into a Web browser:
now have over 1700 entries on the public records page: http://www.psychsearch.net/public_records.html
State suspends Vero Beach psychiatrist's license after NYC charges revealed
The Florida Department of Health issued an emergency suspension of a Vero Beach psychiatrist's medical license this week after learning the doctor pleaded "not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect" to charges that he tried to kidnap a 2-year-old from his mother in New York City last year.
The doctor later told a court he thought the mother was from outer space. Dr. William John Johns III, 35, has been incarcerated in New York since his arrest in July 2006. "He believed he was a character in a movie and that other people were actually actors observing him," the order reads. Some time later, Johns reportedly drove to New York City. Along the way he tore a medication patch from his arm, heard voices and thought he was Jesus Christ, the order states
Screening kids poses risk of harm
October 3, 2007
YOUR OCT. 1 editorial "Better mental health for kids" correctly noted US District Judge Michael Ponsor's point that children's mental health problems are "often exacerbated by external traumas arising from poverty, family chaos or violence, drug abuse, separation from loved ones, and institutionalization." However, screening Medicaid-covered children for mental illness is not the answer. In fact, this approach has been rejected by Congress. A superficial screening by overworked pediatricians would likely result in many false positives with devastating consequences for the children and their families. These quick-fix screening tests invariably end up with quick fixes of kids by labeling them and placing them on medication, without a comprehensive psychosocial evaluation and assistance to the children and their interpersonal environment. As a psychiatrist who has evaluated children in schools, I know that myriad factors can cause what appear to be symptoms of mental illness. Though you state that parents can opt out of the state's screening program, often parents' custody is threatened if they do not comply with mental health treatment. I hope that Posner and the Legislature reconsider screening as an approach to children's mental health and adopt a more comprehensive plan.
Dr. DANIEL B. FISHER
The writer is a member of the federal New Freedom Commission on Mental Health.
This week Congress is again grasping for more control over the health of American children with the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Parents who think federally subsidized health care might be a good idea should be careful what they wish for.
Despite political rhetoric about a War on Drugs, federally-funded programs result in far more teenage drug use than the most successful pill pusher on the playground. These pills are given out as a result of dubious universal mental health screening programs for school children, supposedly directed toward finding mental disorders or suicidal tendencies. The use of antipsychotic medication in children has increased fivefold between 1995 and 2002. More than 2.5 million children are now taking these medications, and many children are taking multiple drugs at one time.
With universal mental health screening being implemented in schools, pharmaceutical companies stand to increase their customer base even more, and many parents are rightfully concerned. Opponents of one such program called TeenScreen, claim it wrongly diagnoses children as much as 84% of the time, often incorrectly labeling them, resulting in the assigning of medications that can be very damaging. While we are still awaiting evidence that there are benefits to mental health screening programs, evidence that these drugs actually cause violent psychotic episodes is mounting.
Many parents have very valid concerns about the drugs to which a child labeled as “suicidal” or “depressed,” or even ADHD, could be subjected. Of further concern is the subjectivity of diagnosis of mental health disorders. The symptoms of ADHD are strikingly similar to indications that a child is gifted, and bored in an unchallenging classroom. In fact, these programs, and many of the syndromes they attempt to screen for, are highly questionable. Parents are wise to question them.
As it stands now, parental consent is required for these screening programs, but in some cases mere passive consent is legal. Passive consent is obtained when a parent receives a consent form and fails to object to the screening. In other words, failure to reply is considered affirmative consent. In fact, TeenScreen advocates incorporating their program into the curriculum as a way to by-pass any consent requirement. These universal, or mandatory, screening programs being called for by TeenScreen and the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health should be resisted.
Consent must be express, written, voluntary and informed. Programs that refuse to give parents this amount of respect, should not receive federal funding. Moreover, parents should not be pressured into screening or drugging their children with the threat that not doing so constitutes child abuse or neglect. My bill, The Parental Consent Act of 2007 is aimed at stopping federal funding of these programs.
We don’t need a village, a bureaucrat, or the pharmaceutical industry raising our children. That’s what parents need to be doing.
The Parental Consent Act of 2007 can be found here: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/gpoxmlc110/h2387_ih.xml
News & Viewpoints
We Can Do Without TeenScreen
"It's about hoping, it's about dreaming, it's about never not believing. It's about taking a walk out on the wall, and....never looking down. It's about living, instead of dying, it's about spreading your wings and...flying. It's all about trying." - Pam Tillis, Country Music Superstar
I think it goes without saying that the last thing we want children to do is stop trying. This is especially true given the stark reality that far too many children these days possess an unhealthy sense of entitlement. Not to mention, they have an insatiable urge to seek instant gratification no matter the consequence.
As parents, we own a duty to insist that children do their best. We must show them how to work towards the proverbial "stars." Think about it. Even if children do not make it to the stars, at least being half way there, is a lot farther than they ever would have been if they only worked towards satisfying low expectations.
So, yes. It's all about trying.
We can do so much within our power to raise children with a proper sense of vision. Raising children to be at least semi-normal takes plenty of hard work and dedication. We can ensure that children live a life full of good mental health. This often takes making an effort to be aware of bad mental health programs/ideas within our culture.
Certainly, there are things that children - especially those in middle school and high school - should live without. Low frustration levels. Low resistance to peer pressure. High regard for the easy way out. High regard for bashing this great country of ours.
Let us not forget to mention something else that children and their parents can do without.
It's a child suicide screening initiative that goes by the slick name of - TeenScreen.
TeenScreen claims it is needed to screen middle school/high school students so potential suicides can be prevented. But then again, what can we really believe that comes out of Columbia University anymore? If you can allow the President of Iran to speak at a once honorable institution, the chances are quite good you're lying about what TeenScreen does. No, TeenScreen does not prevent suicide. In fact, it turns normal to semi-normal children into mental health patients. Yeah, right. This is just what we need more of!
TeenScreen operates in 43 states, and at 450 locations. Mostly middle schools and high schools. These children are fresh meat for those who want to provide more young minds with more psychiatric labels and drugs. TeenScreen is a multi-level process that does not simply end after a young student takes a computerized ten minute questionnaire.
God help us all if this is the working standard of psychiatry today.
Well, if hacks at Kaiser Permanente Behavioral Health think that they can properly diagnosis someone as mentally ill in six minutes, I suppose anything is possible.
Now, if certain responses are received, students are referred for mental health services. Mental health services that you know damn well include psychiatric drugs. I mean, what else do mental health services have to offer these days other than - drugs? Parental consent here is a scam, and you must know something is wrong about TeenScreen since NAMI thinks there are so many things right about it.
Interestingly, and what seems to fuel support for scams like TeenScreen, are lies concerning the number of "youth" who are either suicidal or have other mental health issues. It seems the percentage changes daily. Perhaps it depends on where you get your news. It's safe to say that the average accepted lie is that 20 percent of America's youth could be defined as having a mental disorder. To make matters worse, there is a second lie. And that lie goes like this - only 20 percent of all youth who can be "identified" as mentally ill receive mental health services.
Sorry, but I think that number is a lot higher. Consider all the children in this country who are on drugs and forced into therapy. In some school districts, I wouldn't doubt that half the student body are improperly drugged, labeled as mentally ill. All the while, we are led down the slippery slope of this "pill for every ill" mind-set in an alleged effort to quell the alleged epidemic of youth suicide. Talk therapy - yes. Psychiatric drugs and labels for growing brains - no.
We must do something hard and fast to prevent programs like TeenScreen from entering even more states and locations. Shouldn't we wonder why they operate so secretively? Shouldn't we wonder why so many folks on their advisory board have ties to Big Pharma? Shouldn't we wonder why so many of the organizations that support TeenScreen directly benefit from its referral system?
So many contradictions. So many questions. So many platitudes.
Life is all about allowing your children to spread their wings and fly. It's also all about knowing things they should stay away from. After all, they're your children, and YOU know their mental health better than any other weasel who claims to be a "mental health professional."
We can do without TeenScreen.
September 30, 2007 Zizza is a freelance writer who lives in Atlanta, GA. He writes frequently about mental health issues and popular culture. Reach him via email: email@example.com