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Friday, December 3, 2004

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

Dept. of Homeland Security
releases new mental health
screening regulations


(Wash. - D.C.) The U.S. Department of Physical and Mental Health (DPMH), a branch of the Office of Homeland Security, has issued new regulations regarding the detection and protection of the mentally ill.

According to Assistant Chief Deputy in Charge Margo Witherspoon, the 457 pages of new regulations will take effect at the beginning of 2005.

“We have been working day and night to create this important compilation of regulations to meet the health and security needs of the American people,” Witherspoon said.

Witherspoon said that the new regulations were required under Title 39 of the USA Patriot Act passed by Congress in the wake of 9/11.

“By accepted scientific measures there are over 20 million Americans today who suffer from mental illness who go undiagnosed and untreated day after day,” she said.

Witherspoon said that her department estimated the cost of undiagnosed and untreated mental illness to exceed 100 billion dollars each year.

“We are talking about tremendous losses in productivity, associated health care costs for treatment of advanced cases that could have been treated earlier, and law enforcement costs associated with dealing with untreated mentally ill persons who often end up as criminals or potential terrorists.”

“As taxpayers we are squandering countless dollars every year by letting this problem fester,” she said. “These regulations are going to save the public countless dollars and protect a lot of seriously ill people from disease.”

Some lawmakers, however, are skeptical about the new rules.

“Stalin would be proud,” rightwing Rep. Ronald Smith (R-TX) said at a press conference yesterday.

“These regulations are right out of Communist doctrine. These rules require local officials, doctors, teachers and even fellow citizens to refer anyone to the local DPMH office who exhibits signs of mental illness. Even better, any school district in America that accepts state funding will be required to have all children enrolled screened for mental disease at the beginning of each school year,” Smith said.

Smith said that failure to report suspected mental disease could result in federal felony charges being filed against those persons who knew or should have known that a person was in need of mental treatment.

“These rules don’t even define what mental illness is,” Smith shouted at the end of his press conference.

“Look on page 371,” he said holding up a copy of the new laws. “Here is the definition of mental illness for children - an inability to build or maintain satisfactory relationships with peers or teachers, or inappropriate behavior or feelings in normal circumstances.”

“Under these rules your child can be diagnosed as mentally ill because he gets in a fist-fight in the 5th grade or does not like his teacher.”

“This is patently unconstitutional. It is a flagrant invasion of the constitutional rights of every American. The federal government does not have a right to look inside your head or your children’s.”

The ACLU fired the first broadside in what is expected to be a protracted legal argument as soon as the regulations where made public this morning.

“For once, I have to agree with Mr. Smith,” Robert Viner, associate counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union said at a following press conference at Capital Hill.

“From what I can gather, these new rules leave the definition of what exactly constitutes mental illness wide open. There is absolutely no requirement that ‘mentally deficient’ behavior, whatever that is, actually be something that is a danger to society or even the subject person.”

“If you are reported to DPMH by anyone, and I mean anyone, then you are required by law to go for screening. Felony charges could result in non-compliance. If you go, any DPMH healthcare worker could diagnose you with ‘potential mental illness” ranging from schizophrenia to anger management disorder. Once diagnosed treatment is not optional - treatments range from prescribed medications to incarceration at a mental institution until cured,” Viner said.

“From these regulations a DPMH health care official could decide that your anger at being forced to be screened by a psychiatrist after being reported as mentally ill by your ex-wife is a sign of ‘anger management syndrome’ and cause for treatment.”

“I am frankly appalled by these new regulations and seriously doubt the constitutionality of any rules that allow the federal government to protect you from yourself,” he concluded. Witherspoon shrugged off Viner’s and Smith’s attack as “mean spirited partisan politics as usual.”

“This is simply another case of left and right wing extremists running out the “Constitutional Boogey Man” to try and scare the public into rejecting a really good idea,” she said. “This is not about the Constitution. I love the Constitution. But these regulations are about saving peoples lives. This is about saving children from mental disease. This is about saving children from parents with mental disease. This is about saving the taxpayers’ money. This is about protecting America from the irresponsible acts of others and the costs of those acts that are the result of mental illness. This is about detecting potential terrorists long before they act to attack our nation. This has nothing to do with the Constitution,” Witherspoon said.

“Of course the Department is not going to force anyone to submit. It will be entirely voluntary except in the most extreme cases of obvious disease and in the case of minor children whose needs must come before any mean-spirited and outdated arguments about the Constitution,” she said.

“By screening children early and often we will be able to detect and treat mental illness long before it becomes a debilitating disease leading to terroristic thoughts, drug abuse and socially destructive behavior. This is a good thing,” she said.

“And of course, treatment is not optional. Who in their right mind would suggest it should be. Mentally ill people cannot make an informed decision in the first place,” she said.

“Last, I would just like to say that Mr. Viner is absolutely right - the rules do not exactly define “mental illness” because there is no exact definition - he knows that. But DPMH healthcare workers are trained professionals and they will have a definitive list of mental illnesses, symptoms and behaviors that will be updated every month by the Department of Homeland Security,” she said.

Witherspoon said that she could not release the list of illnesses and symptoms and behaviors as it was controlled information under the new anti-terrorism statutes promulgated under the USA Patriot Act.

Head of the U. S. Justice Department John Ashcroft also issued a fast rebuttal to any claims that the new rulings infringe on civil rights or constitutional protections.

“The law has recognized the right of the people to protect themselves from unnecessary and avoidable healthcare associated costs for several decades,” Ashcroft said at a press conference held in the Tulip Garden on the north side of the Whitehouse.

“For decades now, we have recognized the right of society to protect itself from the direct and indirect costs of irresponsible conduct by individuals. No reasonable person has ever asked if laws requiring the use of seatbelts or motorcycle helmets are constitutional. Not wearing a seatbelt is unsafe. Those injured in auto accidents while not wearing a seat belt irresponsibly inflict healthcare burdens on society - and so every state, at the prompting of the our federal government, now require the use of seatbelts. People are safer. The roads are safer. We as taxpaying citizens are protected from the waste of irresponsible citizens.”

“These new regulations are no different. Frankly, I do not see what the uproar is all about,” Ashcroft said later. “At no point does the Constitution prohibit the federal government from acting for the benefit of, and on behalf of, the people to make them safer.”

“Seat belt laws are just one example. We have been legislating for the public good, passing laws to make us all safer and save taxpayers unnecessary expense, for decades. Nobody can argue that seatbelts are not a good thing. Lives have been saved.”

“These new regulations will do the same thing. This administration is saving lives and saving the taxpayers money. That is good law, I don’t care who you are,” Ashcroft said.

A presidential spokesperson announced that President Bush planned on attending the Grand Opening for the new Department of Physical and Mental Health in Washington, D.C., planned for January 4th.

---- This article has been brought to you from the dark depths of my mind. Yes, it is a spoof. Ms. Witherspoon and Mr. Smith and Mr. Viner do not exist. I made up the whole thing.

I would be curious to know when you knew it was a spoof.

I did it to make two points.

The first point is that while I made up some of the facts, the reasoning used to justify such totalitarian schemes as forced mental health screening is no different than the reasoning used to justify seat belt laws and helmet laws and pickup truck laws.

The reasoning is that 1) it is good for you, and 2) we as a society have a right to save ourselves the money your stupid behavior will cost us.


So is the justification for forced mental health screening and forced treatment. It is for your/our own good.

The second point I wanted to make is how frighteningly far we have marched away from the idea of being free people governing ourselves through a constitutional republic. If I read this exact story under an Associated Press byline in a major newspaper I would be shocked, but not surprised. Many might not even be shocked - they might just fall for the “it is for our own good and for the children” line of bull that seat belts laws are coated with.

Think I am far-fetched and grasping at straws? Such government-sponsored terrorism could never happen here in America right?

If you think I’m really reaching, go to this website: .

This is the government site for President Bush’s New Freedom Commission On Mental Health.

Click on the Executive Summary of the report and give it a read. It is only 18 pages and they use a lot of pictures so it will not take long.

I pulled of the numbers and definitions in the above spoof directly from the Commission’s report. These people really think that 5-10 percent of adults and children in this country are mentally ill.

Unless you are completely trusting in the good-intentions and results of the bureaucrats and professional politicians of the Bush administration, or Clinton’s, or the next one, it is not hard to imagine them pushing to implement the ideas in this report as law and introducing complimentary screening of you or at least your children.

I did not make up the definition of mental illness for kids either. You can read it and the rest of the definition on page 3 of the report - “inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers; inappropriate types of behavior…. under normal circumstances.”

If they had screened me in 5th grade I would still be locked up in a straight jacket.

I sure as shooting do not need some government functionary social worker that was too lazy or stupid to find work in the real world jacking around with my children’s minds.

Of, course I do not need some holier-than-thou twit telling me to wear a seatbelt either. Nor to stop drinking cokes, chewing tobacco, eating beef or to start exercising more.

My life - leave me alone. It is none of your business how I waste it. That is solely between God and me.

Unless of course, it costs society money, right?

Like my failure to wear a seatbelt might.

Or like my mental illness might?

I wonder if failing to wear my seatbelt is a sign of mental illness?

Click it or Ticket was the slogan in last week’s government sponsored program of personal behavior control to force people to wear a seatbelt against their will.

Maybe next year it will be, “Click it or take your Thorazine.”

Your View

Your Reader wants answers from Galindo

Dear Editor:

As a Pecosite stationed elsewhere and having 20 years experience of dealing with the Federal Government, I want to submit my comments concerning the contract renewal for Mr. Randy DeLay. I was not present for the council discussions; however, in reading Rosie Flores' coverage, I whole heartedly agree with Lynn Owens' statement "We already have a three-year contract with the federal government, do we really need his services?" said Owens. "Are we going to pay $165,000 for no purpose?" I think that's a legitimate question; but, I do not see an appropriate response?!

Kinship to a U.S. Congress person Majority Leader does not guarantee contracts will be granted. Anyone dealing with Congress should understand that! Furthermore, it appears no body has requested or better yet, demanded an itemized accountability from Mr. Galindo or anyone else in the decision process for the $165K already spent on Mr. DeLay's services. What exactly did he accomplish (item by item) for Pecos with the $165K already invested in his services? Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

Where's the media when you really need them? Smokey, I think Ms. Flores should be prepared to ask the "hard questions" at these meetings. It appears she's attending just to attend and report. I hope that's not so. Did she ask any "hard questions"?

Obviously, Mr. Galindo's contention that "I think it's a good proposition, for a significant number of people employed at the RCDC," said Galindo. "In light of our situation, I think it's vital we can have a direct line into that process." proved worthless. Did DeLay find contracts from the various states looking for prisoner beds? What exactly was Pecos' Return On Investment (ROI)?

Shouldn't Pecos be looking at drawing diversified businesses vs. putting all their eggs in the RCDC basket? I find it disheartening every time I visit back home to see the Ghost town Pecos has become. RCDC has not proven itself in many other communities, why would Mr. Galindo and the Pecos Council think RCDC will be an exception at Pecos?

What figures can they show? I see only a drain on the Pecos revenue by businesses closing down vs. opening up to employ more people. What COMMERCIAL business is Mr. Galindo and the council trying to attract? If you want to see the failure of a City Council really falling on their face, try reading the failed efforts of San Antonio City Council's attempt to attract the PGA Village. Fumble, dropped pass, stumbling, highly paid lobbyist resulted in our loss and someone else's gain.

I smell dead fish at city hall. What say you? I also think Pecos is wasting "time" by having renewed DeLay's contract.

Sure wish the Enterprise would update their internet more frequently.

That's a good ROI. Chuy Anaya

"Waste your money and you're only out of money, but waste your time and you've lost part of your life." Michael Leboeuf

Sport supporter disappointed with Eagle coach

Dear Editor:

I just arrived home from a basketball game between Pecos and Stanton.

First let me say I had NO ONE playing on either team. I have a love of basketball and took my grandson to see the game...Our team the Forsan Buffaloes was playing out of town, although I have no one on that team either.

Any way I sat thru the junior varsity boys game and was outraged. I witnessed the boys coach throwing a clip board down during a huddle with the boys during a time out, and also an older man sitting on the coaches bench making a gesture concerning the refs that I thought was unappropriate.

I as a parent as other parents have raised our children to have respect for people who have authority over us and I thought that the conduct of your coaches was appalling. I would not have hesitated to talk to our schools administration had I seen such things from the bench that my children were on in high school. I thought my children that refs are only human and they call what they see. I have two boys who have refereed for years and I am outraged that such conduct is shown for the men on the court who are only all calling the game as they see it. They are not paid by the schools enough to go through what some of them have to endure. Any way regardless of how coaches think the game should be called by the refs they are there to show good sportsmenship and I feel when coaches show such a lack of respect in front of their players they should be called for unsportsmenlike conduct! As a fan of the game and not the team, you can rest assured I will not be attending another game that involves the Pecos Eagles. I certainly don't hold this against the people of Pecos only the people in charge of watching over who has influence over the children of Pecos. Sincerely, Cindy Dunlap Big Spring Texas

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