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Mental Health Screening: A Form of Child Abuse--Children Drugged Without Parental Consent

Tue, 19 Apr 2005

The documented case report of Aliah Gleason, a 13 year old Texas school girl, provides shocking hard evidence revealing the true threat to children's mental health and safety. The worst thing that can happen to a child is to be caught up in the grid of the state mental health system.

"The Gleasons would not be allowed to see or even speak to their daughter for the next five months, and Aliah would spend a total of nine months in a state psychiatric hospital and residential treatment facilities. While in the hospital, she was placed in restraints more than 26 times and medicated - against her will and without her parents' consent - with at least 12 different psychiatric drugs, many of them simultaneously."

This shocking report in Mother Jones reveals that when state mental health agencies are involved, parents lose their rights and children can be removed from their parents' care, children can be incarcerated in a psychiatric facility, and children can be forced to take multiple psychiatric drugs which are so dangerous they carry a Black Box warning that scientific evidence established that even short exposure to SSRI antidepressants put children at a twofold increased risk of suicidal behavior.

The case encapsulates the serious negative impact that government imposed mental health screening initiatives--such as were recommended by the New Freedom Commission Report--are having on children.

Children are being traumatized and brutalized with physical and chemical restraints: their mental health, their physical safety and their health are all being undermined--for whose benefit?

The case provides evidence of how the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP) is being coercively implemented. TMAP was also recommended by the New Freedom Commission report: it was initiated by a consortium of drug companies, and formulated by psychiatrists at the University of Texas who have significant financial ties to those companies.

Rob Waters, who broke the story about FDA officials muzzling Dr. Andrew Mosholder, whose report about pediatric trials testing SSRI antidepressants led to congressional investigations, and was instrumental in bringing to public attention that a twofold increased risk of suicidal behavior is linked to SSRIs, has opened the lid on the abuse that awaits America's children who are deemed to have "mental health" problems.

Below is a reminder that "Comfortably Numb" a film about another child victim of psychotropic drugs, will be showing on May 1 at noon at the New York International FILM FESTIVAL- Village East Cinema locatedat 12th STREET AND 2ND AVENUE IN MANHATTAN.

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
212-595-8974

When state mental health officials fall under the influence of Big Pharma, the burden falls on captive patients. Like this 13-year-old girl.
By Rob Waters
May/June 2005 Issue

http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2005/05/medicating_aliah.html enter subscriber code MJZL6Y

ALIAH GLEASON IS A BIG, lively girl with a round face, a quick wit, and a sharp tongue. She's 13 and in eighth grade at Dessau Middle School in Pflugerville, Texas, an Austin suburb, but could pass for several years older. She is the second of four daughters of Calvin and Anaka Gleason, an African American couple who run a struggling business taking people on casino bus trips.

In the early part of seventh grade, Aliah was a B and C student who "got in trouble for running my mouth." Sometimes her antics went overboard - like the time she barked at a teacher she thought was ugly. "I was calling this teacher a man because she had a mustache," Aliah recalled over breakfast with her parents at an Austin restaurant.

School officials considered Aliah disruptive, deemed her to have an "oppositional disorder," and placed her in a special education track. Her parents viewed her as a spirited child who was bright but had a tendency to argue and clown. Then one day, psychologists from the University of Texas (UT) visited the school to conduct a mental health screening for sixth- and seventh-grade girls, and Aliah's life took a dramatic turn.

A few weeks later, the Gleasons got a "Dear parents" form letter from the head of the screening program. "You will be glad to know your daughter did not report experiencing a significant level of distress," it said. Not long after, they got a very different phone call from a UT psychologist, who told them Aliah had scored high on a suicide rating and needed further evaluation. The Gleasons reluctantly agreed to have Aliah see a UT consulting psychiatrist. She concluded Aliah was suicidal but did not hospitalize her, referring her instead to an emergency clinic for further evaluation.

Six weeks later, in January 2004, a child-protection worker went to Aliah's school, interviewed her, then summoned Calvin Gleason to the school and told him to take Aliah to Austin State Hospital, a state mental facility. He refused, and after a heated conversation, she placed Aliah in emergency custody and had a police officer drive her to the hospital.

The Gleasons would not be allowed to see or even speak to their daughter for the next five months, and Aliah would spend a total of nine months in a state psychiatric hospital and residential treatment facilities. While in the hospital, she was placed in restraints more than 26 times and medicated - against her will and without her parents' consent - with at least 12 different psychiatric drugs, many of them simultaneously.

On her second day at the state hospital, Aliah says she was told to take a pill to "help my mood swings." She refused and hid under her bed. She says staff members pulled her out by her legs, then told her if she took her medication, she'd be able to go home sooner. She took it. On another occasion, she "cheeked" a pill and later tossed it into the garbage. She says that after staff members found it, five of them came to her room, one holding a needle. "I started struggling, and they held my head down and shot me in the butt," she says. "Then they left and I lay in my bed crying."

What, if anything, was wrong with Aliah remains cloudy. Court documents and medical records indicate that she would say she was suicidal or that her father beat her, and then she would recant. (Her attorney attributes such statements to the high dosages of psychotropic drugs she was forcibly put on.) Her clinical diagnosis was just as changeable. During two months at Austin State Hospital, Aliah was diagnosed with "depressive disorder not otherwise specified," "mood disorder not otherwise specified with psychotic features," and "major depression with psychotic features."

In addition to the antidepressants Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapro, and Desyrel, as well as Ativan, an antianxiety drug, Aliah was given two newer drugs known as "atypical antipsychotics" - Geodon and Abilify - plus an older antipsychotic, Haldol. She was also given the anticonvulsants Trileptal and Depakote - though she was not suffering from a seizure disorder - and Cogentin, an anti-Parkinson's drug also used to control the side effects of antipsychotic drugs. At the time of her transfer to a residential facility, she was on five different medications, and once there, she was put on still another atypical - Risperdal.

The case of Aliah Gleason raises troubling - and long-standing - questions about the coercive uses of psychiatric medications in Texas and elsewhere. But especially because Aliah lives in Texas, and because her commitment was involuntary, she became vulnerable to an even further hazard: aggressive drug regimens that feature new and controversial drugs - regimens that are promoted by drug companies, mandated by state governments, and imposed on captive patient populations with no say over what's prescribed to them.

In the past, drug companies sold their new products to doctors through ads and articles in medical journals or, in recent years, by wooing consumers directly through television and magazine advertising. Starting in the mid-1990s, though, the companies also began to focus on a powerful market force: the handful of state officials who govern prescribing for large public systems like state mental hospitals, prisons, and government-funded clinics.

One way drug companies have worked to influence prescribing practices of these public institutions is by funding the implementation of guidelines, or algorithms, that spell out which drugs should be used for different psychiatric conditions, much as other algorithms guide the treatment of diabetes or heart disease. The effort began in the mid-1990s with the creation of TMAP - the Texas Medication Algorithm Project.

Put simply, the algorithm called for the newest, most expensive medications to be used first in the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression in adults. Subsequently, the state began developing CMAP, a children's algorithm that is not yet codified by the state legislature. At least nine states have since adopted guidelines similar to TMAP. One such state, Pennsylvania, has been sued by two of its own investigators who claim they were fired after exposing industry's undue influence over state prescribing practices and the resulting inappropriate medicating of patients, particularly children.

Thanks in part to such marketing strategies, sales of the new atypical antipsychotics have soared. Unlike antidepressants - which have been marketed to huge audiences almost as lifestyle drugs - antipsychotics are aimed at a small but growing market: schizophrenics and people with bipolar disorder. Atypicals are profitable because they are as much as 10 times more expensive than the old antipsychotics, such as Haldol. In 2004, atypical antipsychotics were the fourth-highest-grossing class of drugs in the United States, with sales totaling $8.8 billion - $2.4 billion of which was paid for by state Medicaid funds.

At a time when ethical questions are dogging the pharmaceutical industry and algorithm programs in Texas and Pennsylvania, President Bush's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health has lauded TMAP as a "model program" and called for the expanded use of screening programs like the one at Aliah Gleason's middle school. The question now is whose interests do these programs really serve?

Continue to part II

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PLEASE COME TO THE SHOWING OF "COMFORTABLY NUMB" AT THE NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL- VILLAGE EAST CINEMA LOCATED AT 12TH STREET AND 2ND AVENUE IN MANHATTAN. SUNDAY, MAY 1, 2005 AT NOON.

WE NEED YOUR PRESENCE, PLEASE COME

Comfortably Numb is a riveting short documentary that portrays the devastating effects of psychiatric drugs given to more than 8 million American children. Kids as young as two years of age are being given powerful, mind-altering drugs, most of which have not been properly tested or approved for children.

Comfortably Numb pierces the wall of secrecy that surrounds the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry and exposes the flaws in a system that creates riches for some while it devastates the lives of others.

Through interviews with a young victim and her father, as well as respected medical professionals, this piece portrays the heartbreaking reality of suffering and even death that shadows the business of selling drugs for children.

Have we lost our minds in allowing this to happen, or have we simply become Comfortably Numb?


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