Mandatory Mental Health Screening For Kids
In 2003, a commission created by President Bush advised on expanding and improving mental health programs at schools in order to provide assistance as soon as possible for students suffering from issues with their learning or who might turn violent or disruptive. The commission highlighted a method of early diagnosis, the Columbia University "TeenScreen" program, that allows students -and with parental consent- to get a mental well-being "check-up" via a computer-based questionnaire prior to graduating in high school. The report, which was 86 pages long, included this recommendation in a long list of recommendations that could improve health care in the U.S. mental health system. The report received little attention outside the mental health community. But over the past two years, a cottage market of a passionate opposition emerged around the idea to expand mental health programs at schools. The idea has become a popular rallying cry for conservatives who see it as a blatant attempt by the government to interfere into family life.  Schools that offer mental health programs cite parents who claim that their children have been mistakenly diagnosed with conditions such as ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and forced to be prescribed medication under pressure from school officials. To these parents the recommendation of the commission to "improve and expand" school mental health services is the first step towards mandatory medical screenings for students of all ages, and the requirement of prescriptions for many, despite repeated assurances by commission members, school officials and congressional experts that this won't be the case. Visit:- Supported by groups like and EdAction The parents of these groups want to prohibit schools from having any involvement in the mental health of their students, saying it is the responsibility of parents to make sure their children's health is protected. As a first step the groups are urging Congress to adopt legislation which is sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex. And backed by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to block federal money for student mental health screening without the written consent of their parents. "If [this legislation] is passed, it will prevent wasteful and potentially devastating federal funding while safeguarding the informed consent rights of all parents in what is a most serious matter -- their children's health and safety," said Patricia Weathers, president and co-founder of Medical professionals and educators on the other side of the debate agree that parental consent should be required to participate in screenings. However, they believe it's worth investigating the possibility of promoting voluntary screenings in order to assist children in need earlier than they can. "There is this curious coalition of people who are concerned about stuff that we didn't recommend, and are making a big noise about it," said Michael Hogan, director of the Ohio Mental Health Department and the chairman of what was called the New Freedom Commission. "The most important thing this commission is concerned with was the fact that many the mental health issues are clearly problems of childhood and adolescent onset... Add to these is that many children don't consult a psychiatrist. "The fundamental logic of what the commission said is that we should take steps to facilitate access to care where children are." The debate on school screenings is just part of a larger discussion about the role that schools play in ensuring children's mental health. Many educators point to a clear connection between mental health and academic performance. "There are a whole slew of intra-personal variables that contribute to a kid's ability to learn and are heavily related to their academic success," said Stacy Skalski, public policy director of the National Association of School Psychologists. "There are also inter-personal variables. Kids don't come into the world knowing how to relate to others. They need to learn that." Bruce Hunter, a veteran policy official at The American Association of School Administrators He said that it's evident "the education industry is difficult enough without getting into the mental health business. "But if a kid is going to beat the hell out of other kids regularly, and is disrupting the classroom, that's a child that needs some mental health assistance. One of the things that our members have expressed is a rising concern about students' mental health, and the ability to get them help when they have a problem," Hunter explained. A complicating factor is the fact that the debate about mental health issues in schools has become enmeshed in the passionate opposition of certain people to medicating children for ADHD, depression, and other problems. The opponents point out the nasty potential side effects of drugs that are commonly prescribed, including suicide, and argue that they simply aren't safe for children.  

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