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Privacy - Mental Health Screening and Records - Congressional Briefing by AAPS DC Representative, Michael Ostrolenk - 2/8/2005

Good afternoon. I am Michael Ostrolenk with the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Prior to becoming a public policy consultant, I was a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of California. As such, I worked with clients dealing with depression, chronic and life threatening illnesses, those who suffered from sexual abuse, neurological impairments and those who chose to abuse drugs and alcohol to the detriment of their physical and mental well being. So, I am quite familiar with the ‘problems of living’ many of our fellow countrymen face on daily basis. I am also quite familiar with how our government works and even with the best intentions, many if not all government programs end up causing more problems than they attempt to solve. So, when it comes to the issue of federally funds going to the states for their mental health programs in general and mental health screening programs in particular, I have to ask myself three questions. First, is under what authority are the services or funds being provided. Second question is what are the intentions of those who are providing the services or funding and the third is do those receiving the services consent to them.

The first question about the authority of the federal government to be in the mental health business. I have looked at the Constitution, specifically Article 1, Section 8 which clearly defines the authority given to the Congress by our Constitution. I do not see any powers in that section which allows for the federal government to be involved in any way in the mental health of its citizens.

The second question I ask myself is what are the intention of those who are creating, organizing, promoting and funding these types of programs. Since a lot of the focus is on providing mental health screening programs in government schools, I will focus my comments on state schools. The issue of mental health and government schools goes back at least to the 1950’s. Let me quote directly from National Institute for Mental Health which conducted a five year study on the mental health of the nation in the 1950’s. The final document was entitled “Action for Mental Health.”

“Proposed that school curriculum be designed to bend the student to the realities of society.”

It should be

“designed to promote mental health as an instrument for social progress and as a means of ‘altering culture.”

A 1962 NIMH-sponsored report, “The Role of Schools in Mental Health,” stated

“Education does not mean teaching people to know.” It means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.”

Let me conclude my inquiry into intentions by quoting from a 1973 Childhood International Education Seminar in Colorado, where Dr. Chester (Psychiatrist) M. Pierce said the following:

“Every child in America is entering school at the age of 5 is mentally ill because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It is up to you as teachers to make all of these sick children well-by creating the international child of the future.”

Now, I do not believe everyone who is involved in this issue, whether the bureaucrats, the intellectuals, or politicians have the intention of transforming our culture through psycho-behavioral indoctrination and pharmaceutical interventions through our schools. Many if not most have good intentions. But good intentions or not, it is not appropriate for the U.S. government which has a monopoly on force to be using its powers to affect the thoughts, feelings or peaceful behaviors of individual citizens.

The third question I have to ask is about consent. Our government should never be in the position of imposing health services on people, and particularly their children, without their permission and against their will. Consent for treatment is one of the most basic tenets of the ethical practice of medicine. It is also foundational for our country. The idea of consent as a basis of the relationship the government should have to the citizens can be found in the Declaration of Independence.

It is good to remember that simply because one believes that a service he or she offers will be beneficial gives you no right to impose it on someone who does not want it. If we involuntarily screen school children for mental health disorders, why not screen members of Congress or the Administration. They are a much greater threat to our lives and liberty than children.

Thank you!