We are allowing Poor Children to be Unjustly over Medicated? Duh!

On the front page of the New York Times last Saturday (December 14, 2009), Duff Wilson reported on a federally funded team of researchers from the Universities of Rutgers and Columbia who revealed that children covered under Medicaid are prescribed antipsychotic medications at a rate four times that of children who are covered under their parent’s insurance. In fact the article reported that

Medicaid children are more likely to receive the drugs for less severe conditions than their middle-class counterparts, the data shows.

The article goes further to ask whether these tactics of medicating children are simply a cost-effective technique to control the problems of poor children rather than using techniques and strategies created for children within a higher socioeconomic bracket. This is very important, for it validates what my research and book, released June 2009 and titled: White Prescriptions?: Black Males and the Dangerous Social Potential of Ritalin and Other Psychotropic Drugs critically discusses.

Within my book I looked at the Medicaid system in Illinois and Florida. More specifically I investigated a specific list of psychotropic medications as it related to Black males juxtaposed against the number of all other groups covered under the state systems. The data revealed that Black males were disproportionately medicated than all other groups prescribed these strong medications. A system of social control is in operation as it relates to children, specifically males of color within the U.S. The U.S. and the government have a history of diagnosing and medically treating marginalized children.

For example, on December 30, 1969, John D. Ehrichman, Domestic Affairs Advisor of then President Richard M. Nixon sent a request to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. The president wanted the Secretary’s opinion as to the advisability of setting up pilot projects embodying some of [the] approaches presented by Arnold A. Hutschnecker, M.D., in his 1,600 page memo which advised the government to conduct nation-wide testing on all children six to eight years old. Such children would be put in special camps, and attend counseling sessions and day care centers that specialized in correcting their violent, delinquent tendencies. his national testing approach would attempt to detect and treat children who possessed homicidal and other violent tendencies.

Hutschnecker, who was at the time engaged in psychotherapy, hoped his proposal for nation-wide testing would allow those children identified as having problems to be subjected to corrective treatment. This line of thought and focus on these children continues today with the federal government, in combination with pharmaceutical companies, is continuously trying to prove the safety of and advocating the use of antipsychotic and other behavioral stimulant drugs in the behavior treatment plans for school age children. For example, in the 1990s, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) attempted to explain the occurrences of violence within the inner cities. Their basis was founded on the possible biological and genetic defects in Black Americans. They proposed to do numerous studies that would have involved intrusive measures such as spinal taps, brain studies, and blood tests. Strong opponents halted the initiative, which resulted in the later resignation of Fred Goodwin, former head of the NIMH. It has been reported [at opensecrets.org] that the total electoral contributions donated by pharmaceutical companies to state and federal electives in 1990 were $3,273,367. In 2006, the donations had blown through the roof to $19,598,807. In 2006, out of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 388 received a total of $9,481,486. Out of the 100 Senators, 92 received a total of $4,592,729 in pharmaceutical contributions. In 2006, Senator Clinton was number fourteen on the top twenty list of senators who received contributions ($124,855). Within this period, the top six contributors were Pfizer, Inc. ($1,743,839), Amgen Inc. ($1,150,925), GlaxoSmithKline ($1,108,101), Johnson & Johnson ($747,215), Abbott Laboratories ($675,896), and Eli Lilly & Co. ($540,921). During the 2008 presidential primaries the top six were Amgen Inc. ($686,500), Pfizer, Inc. ($648,971), GlaxoSmithKline ($520,716), Johnson & Johnson ($480,921), Roche Group ($370,227), and Abbott Laboratories ($366,800). These are the makers of the behavioral stimulants like Paxil, Zyban, Wellbutrin XL, Cleocine Phosphate, Zoloft and etc. These contributions have had an undoubted effect on elected officials.

For example, in 2005, President George W. Bush launched an initiative for a nationwide mental health screening of all children K-12th grade. Due to the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (NFC), which was an Executive Order issued on April 29, 2002, his primary goal to create an integrated system of care that established identification, screening, and finally responding to metal health problems early within child welfare, public schools, criminal, and juvenile justice systems was enabled. Simply put, every child in the U.S. would be screened for mental health issues and forced prescribed care treatments. As of 2005, these measures have already been implemented in the states of Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Montana; Nebraska; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Virginia; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Wyoming.

This is an issue that should not be ignored but further investigated due to the lack of scholarship on the issue of medicating children. This also an issue that calls for scholars who are not afraid to look further than SES (socioeconomic status), but both race and gender.