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The Mean And Unclean TeenScreen

A ridiculous mental health initiative was unveiled by President Bush in July 2004, after being established in 2002. The plan promises to integrate mentally ill patients fully into the community by providing "services in the community, rather than institutions- according to a March 2004 progress report entitled, ‘New Freedom Commission on Mental health’, Executive Order 13263.. It is a federal action agenda that is being initiated.

Bush established the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in April 2002 to conduct a comprehensive study of the United States mental health service delivery system, so he told the public. This includes over 50 million children targeted for mental health screening in over 100,000 schools in the United States.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA), who has an overt affinity for pharmaceutical industry funds, supports this Commission. In fact, the Bush administration was very appreciative of the efforts of the APA to suppress mass media coverage of facts and stories raised by others exposing plans to screen others for mental illness.

The 15 person commission issued its recommendations in July 2003. Included in this commission is the aggressive mental health screening of children performed by TeenScreen, which is in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

TeenScreen is unnecessary, because there is already an existing structure for screening and labeling children as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Furthermore, due to rapid developmental changes with children, it is very difficult to accurately diagnose these children.

TeenScreen clearly is simply a government sponsored market expander for those in the pharmaceutical industry who market psychotropic drugs. SSRIs, a frequently prescribed class of medications, generates close to 200 million prescriptions in the United States that approaches a cost of 20 billion dollars a year.

On TeenScreen’s own website, it states that it believes any funding from pharmaceutical companies could create the appearance of a possible inducement to recommend treatment, yet TeenScreen does not prohibit funds from drug companies.

Medicaid is the largest payer of mental health services- with 1 out of every 5 dollars spent by Medicaid goes to psychotropic drugs. Nearly 3 million children are receiving more than one psychotropic drug at one time without merit or efficacy provided by these drugs, overall. The cost is on average over 100 dollars a month for each child for these drugs.

Mental health screening programs have never been proven to prevent suicide, the apex of TeenScreen, according to the organization. The Commission chose to have TeenScreen assess children at public schools because these school districts get more money for every student that is labeled mentally ill or disabled.

The US Preventative Special Task Force, sponsored by the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, stated in 2004 that there is no evidence that mental health screening for suicide risk reduces suicide attempts or mortality. Presently, this task force now supports TeenScreen. Why they do now is unknown.

Those who lead TeenScreen contradict themselves. Leslie McGuire, TeenScreen’s director, and formerly a leader at NAMI, stated that TeenScreen was not affiliated with or funded by drug companies. She also stated that TeenScreen does not involve treatment and does not recommend or endorse any particular kind of treatment for the youth who are identified by them as at risk by their screenings. Her Co-Director, Llaurie Flinn, however, stated that treatment is the long term goal for TeenScreen.

Some insist on the truth, and others avoid the truth.


After getting passive consent from the parents of the children TeenScreen desires to screen, TeenScreen asks a series of questions to children that they believe will indicate mental disorders- with the focus being those children who are potentially suicidal, completely disregarding the fact that a score on a rating scale alone is not sufficient to diagnose such mental illnesses as depression.

The number of positive responses from the questions answered by the children will determine by TeenScreen if mental illness exists. However, a score is positive if a child refuses to answer any of the questions given to them by TeenScreen. The positive indications are catalysts for referrals of children for treatment. Yet TeenScreen does not disclose where these children are sent for treatment to anyone.

These questions are not given to the parents of the child screened. This violates the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment. However, the questions can be obtained on websites such as: www.teenscreentruths.com.

The passive consent deception is that they ask the parents on a form to return the form to the school only if they do not want their child to participate in the screening. Also, the consent form does not state that there is no scientific proof to back up the screening, yet will be used to label the child mentally ill.

Also, initially, TeenScreen stated that if their mental health screening program is approved by the Board of Education as part of the educational program, parental consent is not necessary.   The Board of Education corrected TeenScreen soon afterwards.   

Nor does the consent form describe the treatment possible with psychotropic drugs, and the dangers of these drugs. And, if the parent refuses the recommended course of treatment by TeenScreen, a referral to the local child welfare agency might be made, which could result in their child being taken away from home and forcibly drugged.

This scares me.

Equally deceptive is the fact that TeenScreen advises local schools on how to circumvent federal law. The Protection of Pupil Rights Act (PPRA) protects the rights of parents by making instructional materials available for their inspection if the materials are to be used in connection with a survey, analysis, or evaluation in which their child is participating. It also requires written parental consent before minors are required to take part in such a survey, analysis, or evaluation.

The focus on those who are suicidal is a bit ridiculous, since suicide rates in this age group have fallen greatly for the past several years now. And if that is the goal of TeenScreen, their methodology is incomplete:

Do they ask if the student has been, or is, irritable and apathetic? No. Do they ask if the student has or is not sleeping well? No. Do they ask if the student has frequent stomachaches? No. Do they ask if the student has given away any of their possessions? No. Do they ask if the student has access to a firearm? No. Do they ask if, when a student states they have thought of suicide, if such a student has a plan? No. Do they ask if a child has any sexual frustration? No Do they ask if the child’s parents are together or unemployed? No Do they ask how long a child has been depressed if they say that they are? No. (Major Depression lasts for at least two weeks straight.)

Wow- what experts they have at TeenScreen……..

TeenScreen tacitly considers the pharmaceutical industry their sponsor, as indicated by the amount of money this industry gives NAMI, which is about 3 million dollars a year. Eli Lilly is the top briber of NAMI, as they are the top drug company with the most prescribed psychotropic drugs, unfortunately.

Front groups, they are, that wear the masks of advocacy groups.  Over half of the revenue of such groups comes from the pharmaceutical industry.  TeenScreen is no different.
Ironically and sadly, lawsuits have been filed against TeenScreen for misdiagnosing children who have been prescribed psychotropic drugs, and have committed suicide likely as a result of the drugs prescribed to them.

TeenScreen links students with those who can pharmacologically treat them for unlikely mental disorders- to further grow the number of kids already on psychotropic drugs- which exceeds 10 million children. If students are assessed by the TeenScreen staff, and are found to require additional services, are connected with a case manager to arrange for appropriate intervention.

Really?

Intervention, when discussing the practice of medicine, is generally a derogatory term used by critics of a medical model in which patients are viewed as passive recipients receiving external treatments provided by the physician that have the effect of prolonging life. Enough said.

TeenScreen has and does bribe students to take the questions they provide that are clinically worthless with such things as movie passes, gift certificates, and so forth. TeenScreen also instructs schools on how to circumvent the PPRA for students, or the Hatch Amendment. There are other legal liabilities that may be created in school districts that implement the TeenScreen program.

It was sold to others that TeenScreen primarily was preventing the incidences of suicide, and this is baseless and without merit. First of all, the rare teen suicides have been declining over the years. Some children likely are void of a concept of suicide.

The screening is a 10 minute computer test with 14 questions that was developed in the psychiatric department of Columbia University. This is hardly enough information from a child to determine their mental status.

And TeenScreen is the perfect example of a flawed mental health screening organization. They ask about thoughts of suicide in their questions of students, but do not ask if the student has a plan for suicide. Nor do they ask if a student has a family history of suicide. Not asked is whether the student has physical illness that is out of control, a risk factor for suicide.

Not asked is if the student has any family and community support for their issues. Of the symptoms the student acknowledges experiencing while answering the questions of TeenScreen, not asked is the duration of these symptoms. TeenScreen does not ask if the student has access to firearms- which is the most common method of suicide.

TeenScreen is nothing more than a front group for their big pharma sponsors who market psychotropic drugs, as teenscreen wears the mask of a support group for the youth. The activities of TeenScreen not only potentially damage children, but also invade their privacy quite obviously, and it is allowed too often, I say with great sadness.

The staff of TeenScreen, as well as the employees of public schools, are in fact practicing medicine without a license, and are committing slander and libel by stating that a student has a mental problem in writing, or to anyone else.

So far, now likely to increase with the addition of primary care doctor offices as targets for TeenScreen, there are greater than 500 TeenScreen sites in most states in the U.S. This decision by TeenScreen to screen kids at these doctor offices will assure quicker prescriptions unneeded for the kids, likely.

TeenScreen’s quick start guides for their primary care focus include tips for interpreting the screening questionnaire results, tips on making a referral for patients identified as being at possible risk, as well as tips for coding and reimbursement.

If referred to a psychiatrist by a primary care doctor, there is a 90 percent chance that this doctor will prescribe a psychotropic drug for them that they likely do not need.  If nothing else, TeenScreen may eventually increase teen suicides once many of the misidentified mentally flawed students are prescribed psychotropic drugs. 

There are few if any benefits associated with TeenScreen, except increased profits for pharmaceutical companies, yet their objectives are potentially damaging to children.

There are concerns about the potentially for unnecessarily causing neurological damage to these students prescribed psychotropic drugs, as well as increased substance abuse and drug dependence.

By the pharmaceutical industry using these front organizations, they compromise scientific integrity under the color of authority. TeenScreen will increase drug use rather than prevent mental illness and the utilization of alternative treatment modalities.

TeenScreen is said to have a certified mental health professional as part of their screenings. I’m not sure what this person does for them, though.

According to Wikipedia:

The Certified Mental Health Professional (CMHP) certification is designed to measure an individual’s competency in performing the following job tasks. The job tasks are not presented in any particular order of importance.

1. Maintain confidentiality of records relating to clients’ treatment. 2. Encourage clients to express their feelings, discuss what is happening in their lives, and help them to develop insight into themselves and their relationships. 3. Guide clients in the development of skills and strategies for dealing with their problems. 4. Prepare and maintain all required treatment records and reports. 5. Counsel clients and patients, individually and in group sessions, to assist in overcoming dependencies, adjusting to life, and making changes. 6. Collect information about clients through interviews, observations, and tests. 7. Act as the client’s advocate in order to coordinate required services or to resolve emergency problems in crisis situations. 8. Develop and implement treatment plans based on clinical experience and knowledge. 9. Collaborate with other staff members to perform clinical assessments and develop treatment plans. 10. Evaluate client’s physical or mental condition based on review of client information.

The certified mental health professionals of TeenScreen only do a small fraction of their tasks- all that is necessary to get drugs for the students, ultimately.

As stated earlier, TeenScreen partners with the mental health front group, NAMI. TeenScreen is led by a former head of NAMI- the front group that is a whore for those psychotropic companies in the pharmaceutical industry. And TeenScreen shares the same unethical behavior as their sponsor.

For example NAMI, did not disclose that Eli Lilly’s marketing manager, Gerald Radke, ran its entire operation at one time. Radke, starting in 1999, worked for NAMI as a Lilly-paid management consultant.

Then, Radke left Eli Lilly and served as NAMI’s paid interim executive director until 2001.  After NAMI, he ran the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and now serves the Pennsylvania Health Department.  Lilly, on average, pays NAMI about a million dollars a year, and these executive loans are mutually beneficial for both.

NAMI receives more than half its budget from some pharmaceutical companies. NAMI came under scrutiny by U.S. Senator Charles E. Grassley in April of 2009. Senator Grassley's investigation of NAMI confirmed that a majority of their funding was coming from the pharmaceutical companies. They are a front group, and not a national mental health advocacy group as perceived to be.

To further prosper on this government initiative involving 25 federal agencies, TeenScreen got assigned the Hilton of required Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), which is the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP), a similar program Bush started as Governor of Texas, as a "model" medication treatment plan that "illustrates an evidence-based practice that results in better consumer outcomes."

How TeenScreen can state that they have no interference with treatment options of those determined by them to be in need of psychotropic drugs, and then require TMAP only, is a bit of a contradiction.

TMAP was ultimately developed by the pharmaceutical industry- particularly those companies that market psychotropic drugs, in 1997. This theory that the primary purpose of the commission was to recommend implementation of TMAP based algorithms on a nationwide basis for profit. TMAP, which requires the use of newer, more expensive drug, has itself has been the subject of controversy in Texas, Pennsylvania and other states where efforts have been made to implement its use.

Developed when Bush was governor of Texas, TMAP began as an alliance of individuals from the University of Texas, the pharmaceutical industry, and the mental health and corrections systems of Texas.

Through the guise of TMAP, the drug industry has methodically influenced the decision making of elected and appointed public officials to gain access to citizens in various mental health settings. The project was funded by a Robert Wood Johnson grant and by several drug companies.

Lilly's Zyprexa is one of the atypical antipsychotic drugs recommended as a first line drug in the Texas scheme. About 70 percent of Zyprexa sales are paid for by government health care programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

All together Lilly reportedly contributed $103,000 to support TMAP. Heather Lusk, an Eli Lilly representative, said contributions to TMAP were "educational" grants made by a company grants office. Roughly 25 percent of those screened by TeenScreen have been placed on psychotropic drugs as of today. If referred to a psychiatrist, over 90 percent of these children will be prescribed at least one psychotropic drug. Psychiatrists, of all physician specialties, are paid the most by the pharmaceutical industry.

What is being done about this very concerning and authoritarian program that is damaging children?

Presently there is a bill to prohibit the use of federal funds for any universal or mandatory mental health screening programs, H.R. 2387, The Parental Consent Act. Such screenings violate the right of parents to direct and control the upbringing of their children. Also, not consenting as parents with the recommendations of mental health screeners should not be a catalyst for a charge of child abuse or education neglect.

Ron Paul spoke before the House of Representatives in 2004 to introduce the Let Parents Raise Their Kids Act, which forbids federal funds from being used for any universal or mandatory mental health screening f students without the express, written, voluntary, informed consent of their parents or legal guardians. This bill protects the fundamental right of parents to direct and control the upbringing and education of their children, as it should be.

And there is The Parental Consent Act of 2005, or HR 181, which assures the right of parents to direct and control the upbringing and education of their children.

There is also the Child Medication Safety Act of 2007 to protect children and their parents from being coerced into administering a controlled substance in order to attend school, and for other purposes.

Yet there is already an Act in place that is has the ability to form this screening function based on the Individuals with Disabilities (IDEA) act, and not TeenScreen. Of course, the pharmaceutical companies would not profit if this were to occur.

Yet the best action can and should be done by others. By parents. By many parents who should know about this program.

If one desires to contact TeenScreen:

Leslie McGuire, M.S.W. Director Columbia University TeenScreen Program 1775 Broadway, Suite 610 or715 New York, NY 10019 Phone: (866) 833-6727 Fax: (212) 265-4454 E-mail: teenscreen@childpsych.columbia.edu www.teenscreen.org

Dan Abshear

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