TeenScreen - Who Pays For Treatment & Drugs?
TeenScreen - Who Pays For Treatment & Drugs?
By Evelyn Pringle
Who will pay for the Bush-recommended mass mental health screening programs like TeenScreen, and the follow-up treatment and drug therapy?
In the end, American tax payers will, for the most part.
According to the May 8, 2005 issue of Lab Business Week, a new analysis by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reveals that Medicaid is now the largest single payer of mental health services, exceeding private insurance, Medicare, or other state and local spending.
The report notes that spending for patient care in psychiatric hospitals has decreased, while expenses for prescription drugs, have increased. One out of every 5 dollars spent on mental health care now goes for psychotropic drugs.
Bush established The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in 2002 by executive order. The Commission recommends that all 50 states start testing and treating mental disorders as early as possible, focusing on the nation's 52 million students, who can be easily accessed in the public school system.
The Commission's report recommends the use of a Texas-based project called the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP), which is basically a list of expensive drugs.
Launched in 1995, while Bush was Governor, TMAP was developed through an "expert" consensus process that included the University of Texas, the state mental health and prison systems, and representatives with strong financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
The original TMAP model was funded through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, an outgrowth of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical giant, along with money from ten other drug companies.
Bogus Mental Illnesses
In order to successfully market their costly new drugs, the pharmaceutical industry needed new mental illnesses. Thanks to their friends in the psychiatric community, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM), now lists over 350 mental disorders which are nothing but a list of behavioral symptoms. The DSM is known as a psychiatrist's "billing bible."
The disorders listed are not based on any scientific criteria. There are no blood tests, brain scans, or chemical imbalance tests to verify that these disorders are an actual disease.
Unlike medical diagnoses that convey a probable cause, treatment and prognosis, the disorders in the DSM are voted in by members of an American Psychiatric Association committee. Illnesses voted in include ridiculous labels like Caffeine-Related Disorder, Mathematics Disorder, Disorder of Written Expression, and the all-encompassing Phase of Life Problem.
Who Needs TeenScreen?
TeenScreen has attempted to create a suicide hysteria in the media when the truth is, suicide has been on the decline for over a decade. There is no suicide epidemic among any age group let alone children.
Between 1992 and 2001, the suicide rate for kids ages 10 to 19 fell from 6.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 1992 to 4.6 per 100,000 in 2001, according to statistics from the Center for Disease Control.
While the drug company funded team steps up efforts to set up mass screening in schools across the country, critics are becoming more vocal. "The New Freedom Commission is blatantly promoting the coercive and manipulative tactics that have led to millions of children being falsely labeled with mental disorders in our public schools," according to Peter Dockx, of the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights, "Schools have become mental health clinics where children are diagnosed based on subjective questionnaires, instead of given proven educational solutions," he said.
"This fact was substantiated," Dockx said, "by a report from the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education, which found that 2.4 million children had been diagnosed with mental 'disorders' and placed in Special Education, when in fact these children had simply not been taught to read."
Plant The Seed - Make Kids Questions Their Own Sanity
TeenScreen is planting the seed of mental illness in the minds of children by using loaded questions that make teens believe that normal everyday feelings and thoughts are somehow abnormal. Here are a few questions from the TeenScreen survey.
In the last year, has there been a time:
(1) When nothing was fun for you and you just weren't interested in anything?
How many kids could say they enjoyed themselves and found life interesting for 365 days in a row?
(2) When you couldn't think as clearly or as fast as usual?
Could any kids claim they were never confused in the past 365 days?
(3) When you had less energy than you usually do?
What does this mean? Less energy when? At school? At play? In the evenings? In the morning? When? Geeeezz.
(4) When you felt you couldn't do anything well or that you weren't as good-looking or as smart as other people? How many adult could think back on their teen years and answer no to this trick question?
(5) Have you often felt nervous or uncomfortable when you have been with a group of children or young people - say, like in the lunchroom at school or at a party?
Oh no, Susie thinks, I feel nervous in these settings and normal kids don't.
(6) Have you often felt very nervous when you've had to do things in front of people?
Show me a kid who loves to stand up in front of people and I'll show you an ego-maniac.
(7) Have you often worried a lot before you were going to play a sport or game or do some other activity? Does this mean its time to gather up all the little league pitchers who get nervous on the mound and shoot them up with valium?
With its yes and no answers, this survey is a no-pass test and the prize for flunkies will be a quick trip to the nearest drug store.
What normal kid has not felt all of the things above during the past year? Kids who take this survey will forever question whether they are normal or not. The seed will be planted.
Kids who answer yes to even some of these questions, will be referred to a psychiatrist, diagnosed mentally ill and prescribed drugs. The idea will then be planted in their minds that anytime they don't like the way the feel, think, or act, all they have to do is take a pill.
TeenScreen provides a springboard into drug addiction.
The pill-pushers behind this scheme want to put kids on SSRI antidepressants, even after the FDA has now determined, "A causal role for antidepressants in inducing suicidality has been established in pediatric patients."
In Pinellas County, Florida, information gathered in an ongoing investigation by professional records researcher, Ken Kramer, supports the FDA's warning. Kramer discovered that in 2002 and 2003, 81% of the teens who committed suicide were either on psychotropic drugs or had received psychiatric treatment.
Between 2000-2004, in Pasco County, the investigation disclosed that 100% of the children who committed suicide were either on psychotropic drugs or had received psychiatric treatment.
The truth is, antidepressants are ineffective and dangerous, and TeenScreen does not lesson the rate of suicide among teens. A TeenScreen program was implemented in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1997. Yet according to a 2003 Tulsa World newspaper article, Mike Brose, the executive director of the Mental Health Association in Tulsa, stated: "To the best of my knowledge, this is the highest number of youth suicides we've ever had during the school year -- a number we find very frightening."
Drug Company Ties
The number one problem with the New Freedom Commission's recommendations for mass mental health screening is the financial influence of the pharmaceutical industry in the creation and implementation of programs like TeenScreen, and the adoption of drug algorithms in each state that require the use of expensive drugs.
The fact is, the main customers for these mandated drugs are the tax payers via the state Medicaid programs.
An October 31, 2004, letter to the editor in the Washington Times titled, "Go Slow on Mental Health Screening", by pediatrician Dr. Karen Effrem, is a powerful refutation of the New Freedom Commission chairman, Michael Hogan's, defense of mass mental health screening of all school children with tax dollars. Dr. Effrem writes:
"Given the very real problems of already existing coercion, subjective criteria, dangerous and ineffective medication, and the failure of screening to prevent suicide, none of which are covered in the NFC report, Congress would be wise to withhold the $44 million requested for state grants to implement the NFC recommendations.
"Whatever good may come from the other recommendations is completely overshadowed by the loss of freedom and damage that would come from labeling and drugging potentially millions of children based on these unsupportable screening and treatment programs."
According to Effrem, "If we don't act now, every child in America will be screened for mental illness: thousands, perhaps millions will be deemed "at risk" of developing mental health problems for which they will be prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs. The screening plan has been called Orwellian and diabolical - the treatment "model" the report recommends is a drug industry-sponsored guideline-- the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP)."
Not surprisingly, every drug company involved in funding the creation the TMAP model has drugs in one or more categories on the list.
Members of the panels who participated in the survey to decide which drugs would be chosen were drawn from pools of candidates who were already on record as supporting the new drugs.
A prime example of a member of the panel with ties to the drug companies is Dr Karen Wagner. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, Wagner conducted a Pfizer-funded study and reported that Pfizer's SSRI antidepressant drug, Zoloft, was safe, effective and well tolerated in children.
Wagner made this convenient claim at a time when both the British Committee on Safety in Medicines and the FDA had announced that they were re-examining all SSRI clinical trial data.
Over the years, Wagner had received research funding from Abbott, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Forest Laboratories, GlaxoSmithKline, Organon, Pfizer, and Wyeth-Ayerst; served as a National Institute of Mental Health consultant to Abbott, Bristol-MyersSquibb, Cyberonics, Eli Lilly, Forest Laboratories, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Otsuka, Janssen, Pfizer, and UCB Pharma; and participated in speaker's bureaus for Abbott, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Forest Laboratories, Pfizer, and Novartis, according to the September 3, 2003 Drug News.
Drug News gave a caustic assessment of drug company influence on Wagner's bogus study: "What we have here is a case study in how pharmaceutical companies respond to warnings that their products cause harm."
"Earlier that summer British health authorities advised against treating children under 18 with SSRI antidepressants because they trigger suicidal thinking and actual suicide attempts," Drug News reported.
Budget Breaking Scheme
According to a 2003 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, prescription drug costs are the fastest-rising component of Medicaid spending and they "are rising sharply because of increases in the number of prescriptions used, increases in the prices of prescription drugs, and the tendency for prescriptions to shift from older, less-expensive drugs to newer, more-expensive ones."
National sales of antipsychotics reached $6.4 billion in 2002, making them the fourth-highest-selling class of drugs, according to the New York Times in May 2003. The Pharma tracking group, NDCHealth, reported that "more than 7.4 million prescriptions were written for Zyprexa and more than 7.6 million for Risperdal in 2002."
Risperdal is the TMAP drug of choice for the treatment of schizophrenia drug. Risperdal, costs nearly $500 a month. Multiply that by 7.6 million and see why drug company profits are soaring.
The first TMAP model was adopted in Texas in 1995. By 1998, the state was in dire financial straights. An article in the Abilene Reporter News on June 18, 1998 entitled "Medications' costs forces MHMR into rationing" described the Texas system as "choking on the costs" of "new-generation medications that treat schizophrenia, depression and bi-polar disorder."
The article described the need for emergency funding to pay for these drugs. One official noted, "I believe that our (Mental Health) centers are in crisis right now because they're trying to squeeze money out for these new medications."
By 2002-2003 budget, Texas lawmakers had to increase the amount allocated for health and human services by $1 billion with a significant portion of that funding going for prescription drugs.
Because the drugs on these lists are the most expensive, profit-enhancing drugs on the market, TMAP models are bankrupting state Medicaid programs all over the country. (To read reports from Massachusetts, Florida, Texas, Illinois, and for more information go to www.ahrp.org)
TeenScreen's promotional material claims its survey is free and the project is not funded by the government or drug companies. However, according Ken Kramer, "nothing is free." Kramer recently learned that TeenScreen has already sold its 10 minute computer administered screening tool to a company called Multi-Health Systems, Inc. and starting in January 2006, TeenScreen sites will have to pay a fee.
In addition, government funds and drug company money have been used to set up TeenScreen programs in Ohio, Tennessee, and Florida.
Last year, TeenScreen's Executive Director, Laurie Flynn, went before Congress looking for money and asked lawmakers to divert funds from alcohol and drug abuse programs to TeenScreen. If this wasn't so serious it would be comical. This broad wants to take funding from drug abuse programs and use it to implement a pill-pushing scheme.
So what happens to students who flunk the survey and don't have health insurance or Medicaid to pay for the drugs?
Ken Kramer says, "Pull out your wallet school districts! TeenScreen recommends that you apply for grants or secure funds to cover the services needed by the teens."
(Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Independent Media TV and an investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption)