Screening brings labeling, drugs
December 31, 2007
AS A psychiatrist since 1947, I am appalled that mental health screening is now being required of Massachusetts children on Medicaid ("Mental screening for young to begin," Page A1, Dec. 27). Such screening greatly exaggerates the significance of the normal variations in psychological state.
Normal kids will therefore be labeled "sick" and referred for "treatment." That labeling is often harmful in itself; once tagged, how does a kid prove he's not mentally ill?
In some middle-class families, treatment may be individual or family counseling. Whether it helps or is merely wasteful, it usually causes relatively little harm. For Medicaid kids, however, treatment will almost always involve powerful drugs whose serious side effects can include the stunting of growth. Mental health screening is thus a harmful invasion of the privacy of Medicaid youngsters.
Dr. NATHANIEL S. LEHRMAN
A needless strain on health dollars
December 31, 2007
WITH ALL of the strain Medicaid has been reported to suffer already - and health coverage in Massachusetts and in other states in general - what makes mental health screening a good idea?
An almost automatic $4.5-million hit - if anyone bothered to do the math - for a written questionnaire? To ask if your toddler has been fussy? If your teenager has been emotional? Duh.
And this is going to be a yearly thing. Add to that the prescriptions that will inevitably come, and the doctor followups, oh geesh Wouldn't that money be better spent on schools? That could be more than 100 teachers' salaries.
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A recent news article by Carey Goldberg in the Boston Globe newspaper ought to have Massachusetts parents fuming mad. In fact, parents nationwide need to be on the alert as well. The long and stretched out arms of psychiatry are poised to put a choke-hold on your children.
Think I am kidding? Think again. In Carey Goldberg's December 27th article, ("Mental screening for young to begin: Mass. doctors to offer questionnaires for children on Medicaid"), we find out that on December 31st, "Annual checkups for the nearly half a million Massachusetts children on Medicaid will carry a new requirement: Doctors must offer simple questionnaires to detect warning signs of possible mental health problems, from autism in toddlers to depression in teens."
This is scary stuff. Pay close attention to this part again, "from autism in toddlers to depression in teens." Perhaps I am paranoid, but I believe a Brave New World is here. Psychiatry just had an incredible cash cow handed to them on a silver platter through the force of government. That is, Massachusetts taxpayers fund Medicaid. In turn, Massachusetts taxpayers are supporting through no choice of their own the inevitable drugging of children.
Instead, we twist things to try and justify forced drugging and the destruction of informed consent by throwing around subjective "national estimates" that Carey Goldberg included in his article that attempt to show "about 10 percent of children have some sort of significant psycho-social problem from hyperactivity to anxiety to stress from living amid domestic violence." Again, it appears children and young adults in Massachusetts, and nationwide, can no longer experience any kind of feeling or thought or deep reflection without it being subjected to a mental health screening or antidepressant psychiatric drug. This isn't medicine. It's medicine gone mad.
Massachusetts has taken a wrong turn here on mental health screening. Cute code words and catch phrases don't cut it. Lisa Lambert, executive director of the Parent/Professional Advocacy League, falsely compares the screening of children and young adults for mental illness to that of acting as a "check engine light" for parents to gauge if their children have any problems. I'm sorry, growing up is a little more complicated than this. On the other hand, mental health screening sets off alarms when no alarm needs to be sounded.
It's time for parents all over this country to get in the front seat when it comes to parenting their children and young adults. I find it hard to believe a subjective mental health "questionnaire" can serve somehow as a substitute parent. Something is seriously wrong when 460,000 Massachusetts children and young adults wake up one morning to find out that they must now submit to a subjective mental health screening at their next annual checkup.