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TeenScreen - Prescription Drug Pusher In Schools

By       Message Evelyn Pringle     Permalink
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"Getting the kids to buy in," she said, "is such an essential thing because for the most part, you're distributing the consent forms to the kids to bring home to their parents and bring them back."

"So you have to get their buy in," Ms McGuire told NAMI members, "you have to get them interested in it."

To that end, TeenScreen offers "incentives" to entice the cooperation of students, such as fast food coupons or movie rentals in exchange for filling out the survey. Additional perks might include $5 in cash, gift certificates, or a pizza party for those students who return the signed consent forms within a specified period of time.

NAMI members are also recruited to help "loop" the kids into a mental health provider after the screening, and told of the importance of getting kids to their first appointment.

Sometimes, members were advised, helping might entail calling an insurance company to get the information on where to go and find out what services were is covered, and sometimes it would even mean picking the kids up and driving them to the first appointment. Activists refer to the process above as a "NAMI assembly line" from start to finish.

An Indiana couple, Teresa and Michael Rhoades, have a teenage daughter named Chelsea, who they describe as a "normal, happy and active student who gets good grades and helps mentor a girl at school."

But apparently Chelsea's parent's missed some signals because in December 2004, she came home one day and informed her parents that she had been diagnosed with two mental illnesses after taking the TeenScreen test at school.

Chelsea explained to her parents that when she arrived at her homeroom that day, the teacher directed all students who did not have an "opt-out slip" to go to another classroom. Only a few students had slips and the rest of the students, who had no idea what the teacher was talking about, were divided into groups of 10-15, and shuffled into other classrooms and placed in front of computers.
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An "opt-out slip" is used by schools that utilize "passive consent" and indicates the parents signed a form saying they would not allow the screening.

Chelsea, who was busy helping a friend in a wheelchair get settled at a computer, barely noticed what she was signing when a form was placed in front of her with no explanation. All she knew was that she was about to take a test.

After completing the survey, Chelsea and her fellow students were instructed to wait outside in the hall and that's where an employee from a mental health center found Chelsea, and informed her that according to the test, she was suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder.

The OCD diagnosis reportedly arose because she answered "yes," that she did find herself repeatedly doing something she had little or no control over, which according to Chelsea meant cleaning her room and doing her chores.

Chelsea was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder supposedly because she said she felt cut off from friends.
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She was given no opportunity to say why she felt this way which was because she wasn't allowed to go out with her friends on school nights. Her parents explain that they don't believe children should be out every night and so they limit Chelsea's social occasions to keep her out of trouble.

Advocacy groups say people need to realize how much money is being made off students like Chelsea. According to medical experts, the drugs likely to be prescribed to Chelsea would be an SSRI or atypical antipsychotic for the obsessive compulsive disorder, and Valium or Xanax for the social anxiety disorder.

After coupling the prescription costs with a 15 minute prescribing appointment with a doctor every month, they say Chelsea's parents could easily be looking at a monthly tab of about $700 for their newly diagnosed mentally ill daughter.

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Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for OpEd News and investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America.

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