Tuesday, August 03, 2004

How's your mental health?

I'm hearing a bit of noise on the alternative health sites (among others) about this article in the British Medical Journal:

Bush plans to screen whole US population for mental illness

A sweeping mental health initiative will be unveiled by President George W Bush in July. 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 Initiative (www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/newfreedom/toc-2004.html). While some praise the plan's goals, others say it protects the profits of drug companies at the expense of the public.


The commission also recommended "Linkage [of screening] with treatment and supports" including "state-of-the-art treatments" using "specific medications for specific conditions." The commission commended the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP) as a "model" medication treatment plan that "illustrates an evidence-based practice that results in better consumer outcomes."


But the Texas project, which promotes the use of newer, more expensive antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs, sparked off controversy when Allen Jones, an employee of the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector General, revealed that key officials with influence over the medication plan in his state received money and perks from drug companies with a stake in the medication algorithm (15 May, p1153). He was sacked this week for speaking to the BMJ and the New York Times.

The most complete followup to this story I can find appears to be by Josef Hasslberger; you can find it here.

From what I can find on the 'New Freedom Initiative', their goals seem laudable - increasing people with disabilities' access to jobs and home-ownership, and so forth. That said, in John Ashcroft's America, 'Report to your Mental Health Screening, citizen' takes on an ugly ugly tone.

If you believe the formulation that goes 'only Nixon could go to China' and 'only Clinton could reform the welfare system' (that is, you need strong anti-commie creds to make the overture visit to a communist country, etc), then I think the obverse is probably true. That is, a hypothetical President McGovern could not go to China, etc. In which case, I think we're pretty safe from State-Mandated Psychiatric Evaluations. I suspect even this White House is rethinking the issue. After all, what DO they do when the American public says "Fine. You go first."


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