National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Arlington, VA-The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) criticized the House of Representatives' Committee on Government Reform for scheduling a hearing tomorrow on the "Overmedication of Hyperactive Children" -- late in the waning days of the legislative session -- that "will largely recycle bad science and trivializes the need for early identification and treatment of mental illnesses in children and adolescents."
"It seems to happen every election year," said NAMI national executive director Richard C. Birkel, Ph.D. "On September 29, 2000, it was a hearing by the oversight subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on essentially the same topic. This week, on September 26, it's the full Government Reform Committee."
"Two years ago the U.S. Surgeon General identified the urgent need for early intervention to help children at risk [see Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, ch. 3, sec. 2]. President Bush's New Freedom" Commission on Mental Health held hearings this past summer and soon will release its preliminary report on the need for improvements in the nation's overall treatment system."
"Meanwhile, Congress has yet to pass legislation to help American families simply by providing parity for mental illnesses in health insurance plans-which House leaders blocked in 2001-but which the President since has pledged to see enacted this year."
"The Committee needs to get its priorities straight. We know what's needed to provide necessary treatment for our children. The real problem is that as a society we are not providing it. Too many children continue at risk, while an endless sideshow questions the overwhelming scientific consensus."
The witness list for the House hearing includes Lisa-Marie Presley as spokesperson for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, an organization originally founded by the Church of Scientology. In a letter to Committee Chairman Dan Burton (R-IN), NAMI observed: "Public policy involving treatment of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other brain disorders must be founded on science, not science fiction or religious ideology."
"For children, treatment requires partnerships between parents, physicians, and teachers. Medication is not an either/or choice and should be considered in conjunction with a range of treatment options. Policy choices should not distort scientific consensus or prevent or discourage families from getting the help that they need."
"The nation's goal should be to offer the highest standard of evaluation and appropriate treatment. Some children may not need to be on medication, but many children with ADHD and other disorders are not being screened at all."
"Many children need treatment and are not getting it. Unfortunately, their entire lives will be affected by the failure to identify and treat such conditions."