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Fall Conference on Children's Health Care Should Address Parents' Rights

June 5, 2000

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton recently highlighted the serious problem of over prescribing Ritalin (a drug commonly used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder) in young children. According to the Associated Press, Mrs. Clinton has proposed several initiatives to combat the over prescribing of Ritalin, including:

  • clinical trials for young children,
  • training for doctors who treat children,
  • a handbook for parents, and
  • a fall conference on children's mental health.

Government Programs and Ritalin Use

One important issue the conference should look at is the relationship between government programs and Ritalin prescriptions. In 1989, Congress mandated states to increase the number of low-income children receiving psychological examinations from 30 to 80 percent by 1995. Most recently, in 1997 Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law a new federal program that gives states $48 billion over ten years for children's health care.

Those federal programs have undoubtedly had an impact on Ritalin use. The fall conference should closely examine how those initiatives have affected American children.

Another important issue that the conference should address is parents' rights to choose their children's health care. It is amazing that public schools are pushing Ritalin, while at the same time they are denying parents the right to choose natural products for their children.

School Board Requires Prescription for Herbs

On January 24, 2000 the Cumberland Valley School Board in Pennsylvania voted unanimously to require students to have a doctor's prescription to use herbal medicines, teas, and nutritional supplements in schools, according to the local newspaper, the Patriot-News. The article notes that some parents argued that herbal or dietary supplements are not medications.

The school board's president, however, purchased a well-known over-the-counter herb and noted its label stated that it should be kept out of the reach of children. When the issue was raised to the school district's physician, he recommended that a doctor's prescription be required in order for the school nurse to administer dietary supplements or herbs. The article states, "But the issue became complicated because the district found out, and parents acknowledged, that several area doctors won't write prescriptions for herbal or dietary supplements even though they support the use of them."

This recent decision shows the enormous power and influence that school boards have over children's health care. Let's hope that the fall conference on children's health care addresses the important issue of parents' rights.

This article was originally published in the March/April 2000 issue of Health Freedom Watch, the bimonthly watchdog report published by the Institute for Health Freedom.

Several federal programs have undoubtedly had an impact on Ritalin use in children.


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