MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM ALARMS PARENTS IN ILLINOIS
July 28, 2004
12:56 AM Eastern
This past spring, the Illinois General Assembly passed a new bill requiring compulsory mental health screening for children and pregnant women; it was signed into law by Governor Blagojevich. This program will require all pregnant women and children through the age of 18 be tested for mental health needs.
Public forums are now being held in different locations throughout the state and many alarmed parents are attempting to get the word out: get to those forums and voice your opinion. "We're moving toward social training over academic training with this program," says Larry Trainor, a Mt. Prospect parent of four children and a contact for Citizens Commission on Human Rights.
Trainor went on to state, "Since psychiatric involvement in education, SAT scores have gone down for the past few decades. Evaluating mental conditions is not based on scientific evidence, it's subjective. What if they find a student has a math disorder, a reading disorder? Would that be a mental health disorder, one that would cause the parents to put their children with a drug for a condition they may or may not have?" Trainor asked.
Other concerned parents say they will refuse to participate in such a program they emphatically state has gone way too far with state interference in their lives and the personal lives of their children. Amy Witherspoon said she and her husband will leave the state before they subject their three year old to any mental health screening by the State of Illinois, nor will Amy, now six months pregnant, submit to any state program "invading my privacy under the guise of mental health screening." Amy's husband, Larry, also rang in by saying, "This is just one more step in the state separating the parent from the child via the school system. Compulsory mental health evaluation for my wife against her will? Good-bye, Nazi Illinois."
The Witherspoon's aren't alone in their opinion about health issues in their state. Dom Pagalia, grandfather of six, says the governor and legislature have "gone crazy," passing this new, compulsory mental health law and says the voters of Illinois should "throw out every legislator this November who voted for this forced testing program." Pagalia says his two children, the parents of his grand children, will file a lawsuit to keep the state from any forced mental evaulation of their minor children. Should that fail, Pagalia says they are prepared to leave the state rather than give up their rights as parents.
Under this new, compulsory mental health law, pregnant women will be screened for depression and following her baby's birth, evaluation would continue for up to one year. Follow up treatment will also be provided under this program. All children ages 0-18 years will be provided screening under this mental health program. "Mental health centers" at schools will handle the process to "ensure appropriate and culturally relevant assessment of young children's social and emotional development with the use of standardized tools."
The Illinois State Board of Education is the agency targeted with the responsibility to develop appropriate tests that assess both mental health and academic standards. The current task force hosting these statewide public forums is scheduled to send their recommendations to Governor Blagojevich by the end of the summer in accordance with the Act (HB 2900).
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Other concerned parents say they will refuse to participate in such a program they emphatically state has gone way too far with state interference in their lives and the personal lives of their children.