On September 30, the Wisconsin State Journal posted an article online. It’s called County Executive Joe Parisi proposes new mental health program for county school district, and was written by Andrea Anderson. [Thanks to S. Randolph Kretchmar on Twitter for the link.]
The gist of the article is that Joe Parisi, the County Executive of Dane County, Wisconsin, is proposing to allocate $90,000 each to two school districts “…to treat student mental health…”
In the wake of each recent mass shooting, there has been a well-orchestrated and well-publicized call from psychiatry for more mental health services, better access to treatment, and early identification of people who are likely to develop mental health problems.
In my view, the purpose of this clamor is four-fold: firstly, to expand psychiatric turf; secondly, to sell more drugs; thirdly, to distract attention from the part that pharma-psychiatry’s products play in these tragic incidents; and fourthly, to distract attention from psychiatry’s general ineffectiveness.
The spin is achieving a good measure of success. After all, who can argue against the notion of reaching out to “sick” people and treating their “illnesses” in an effective and timely manner? It’s motherhood and apple pie and hot lunches for orphans all rolled into one nice package.
And the politicians are buying it. Joe Parisi of Dane County has bought it, and is proposing to fund such a program.
The State Journal article states:
“The Dane County Mental Health Rapid Response Teams initiative would help schools expand supportive learning environments and provide more services for students who have mental illnesses.”
Dean Gorrell, superintendent of one of the school districts involved, is quoted as saying that there is an “acute need for mental health services in Dane County.”
According to the article, Joe Parisi was led to the conclusion that more mental health services were needed from a Dane County Education Task Force survey and from a Joining Forces for Families meeting. In the task force survey, the majority of school superintendents listed mental health services as the largest unmet need of children and families. Joining Forces for Families is apparently a meeting of county staff, school officials, and law enforcement. It was in one of these meetings that Mr. Parisi reportedly learned of Verona School District’s need to assist students who “suffer from mental illness such as trauma and depression.”
Dane County, incidentally, had a population of 488,073 in 2010. The population has grown steadily every decade since 1840. Its estimated population for 2012 was just over 500,000.
The county seat is Madison, which is also the state capitol.
I was a little skeptical about the “unmet needs” claim, and spent a little time on the ‘net exploring what mental health services are currently available to young persons in Dane County. Here’s what I found. [Some data from the SAMHSA website]
- Journey Mental Health Center: This is the community mental health center for Dane County. The annual budget is about $18.5 million, and the center provides a full range of mental health services to clients of all ages, including children. The agency operates two school-based mental health services. These are FACE (Four Agency Cooperative Effort) and CBITS (Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools). Journey Mental Health Center provides group co-facilitators for FACE and assists schools in identifying student group needs. CBITS is “…an evidence-based group intervention for children who have experienced a past trauma and have active PTSD symptoms.”
- Meriter Hospital: This is a general hospital with a child and adolescent psychiatry program.
- Catholic Charities: This agency operates an outpatient mental health program for clients of all ages, including children.
- Family Services Inc.: This agency also provides outpatient mental health services to clients of all ages, including youth with serious emotional disturbance.
- Children’s Services Society: Provides outpatient mental health treatment to youth with serious emotional disturbance and/or PTSD.
- Lutheran Social Services: Provides outpatient mental health services to individuals of all ages, including children.
- Phoenix Counseling: An outpatient/partial hospitalization mental health facility serving clients of all ages, including children with serious emotional disturbance.
- Mendota Mental Health Institute: This is the state psychiatric hospital, which houses a juvenile treatment center serving the mental health needs of male adolescents transferred from the juvenile corrections system. Mendota also provides case consultation to counties and other agencies throughout the state.
Dane County also has 140 psychiatrists, 120 psychologists, and approximately 280 marriage, family, child and individual counselors.
All told, it seems to me that there is a great deal of mental health service in Dane County already.
At the present time, American psychiatry is engaged in a concerted and coordinated appeal for more mental health services to address various “unmet needs.” In particular, it is claimed, without any supporting evidence, that the early identification and “treatment” (i.e. drugging) of potentially violent youth will reduce the incidence of the mass shootings which have become almost a routine part of our troubled social landscape.
In my view, psychiatry’s efforts in this regard are best conceptualized as spin, the purpose of which is to distract us from the fact that many of the perpetrators of these crimes had in fact been receiving mental health treatment, and were actually under the influence of psycho-pharma products at the time of the murders.
What’s going on in Dane County, Wisconsin, is one little piece of this wider picture. We can expect to see a good many more initiatives of this sort throughout the US in the months to come. Let’s hope that the elected county representatives will have the good sense to reject these budget proposals.