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September 26, 2002

NAMI Condemns Congressional Hearing for Promoting Bad Science

NAMI has issued a press release criticizing the House of Representatives' Committee on Government Reform for scheduling a hearing September 26th, 2002 on the "Overmedication of Hyperactive Children." The witness list for the hearing is heavily unbalanced with opponents of medication as a treatment for AD/HD, including Lisa-Marie Presley, spokesperson for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, an organization originally founded by the Church of Scientology, and Bruce Weisman, President of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. The Church of Scientology has long engaged in a national campaign to impugn the existence of mental illnesses and the value of medications in treating these illnesses.

The hearing will "largely recycle bad science and trivialize the need for early identification and treatment of mental illnesses in children and adolescents", said NAMI national Executive Director, Richard C. Birkel, Ph.D. "Public policy involving treatment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) and other brain disorders must be founded on science, not science-fiction or religious ideology."

In strongly worded letters to Committee Chairman Dan Burton (R-IN) and Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Minority Member of the Committee, Dr. Birkel stated that it is "unfathomable that a hearing on this important topic would be dominated by ideologues, not informed scientists." "Medication should not be an either/or choice for treating children with AD/HD and other brain disorders," Birkel stated. Rather, medication "should be considered in conjunction with a range of treatment options.

Read a copy of NAMI's press release.  The letter to Representatives Burton and Waxman is posted below.

Action Requested

NAMI members are urged to contact the members of the Committee on Government Reform to express their concern that the Committee missed an opportunity to examine childhood mental disorders and emerging scientific consensus about how best to respond to the needs of children who suffer from these illnesses, by inviting an unbalanced panel of witnesses to testify at today's hearing.

All members of Congress can be reached by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or online through www.congress.org.

Committee on Government Reform

Chairman Dan Burton-Indianapolis, IN

Benjamin Gilman- Middletown, NY

Connie Morella- Bethesda, MD

Christopher Shays - Bridgeport, CT

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen- Miami, FL

John McHugh- Watertown, NY

Stephen Horn- Long Beach, CA

John Mica- Deltona, FL

Thomas Davis- Annandale, VA

Mark Souder- Fort Wayne, IN

Steven LaTourette- Ashtabula County, OH

Bob Barr- Marietta, GA

Dan Miller- Sarasota, FL

Doug Ose- Woodland, CA

Ron Lewis- Bowling Green and Elizabethtown, KY

Jo Ann Davis- Richmond, VA

Todd Russell Platts- York, PA

Dave Weldon- Brevard County, FL

Chris Cannon- Provo, UT

Adam Putnam- Lakeland, FL

Butch Otter- Lewiston, ID

Ed Schrock- Virginia Beach, VA

John Duncan- Knoxville, TN

John Sullivan- Tulsa, OK

Henry Waxman- Beverly Hills, CA

Tom Lantos- Dale City, CA

Major Owens- Brooklyn, NY

Edolphus Towns- Brooklyn, NY

Paul Kanjorski- Wilkes-Barre, PA

Patsy Mink- Honolulu, HI

Carolyn Maloney- Manhattan, NY

Eleanor Holmes Norton- Washington, DC

Elijah Cummings- Upper Marlboro, MD

 Dennis Kucinich- Cleveland, OH

Rod Blagojevich- Chicago, IL

Danny Davis- Chicago, IL

 John Tierney- Gloucester, MA

 Jim Turner- Lufkin, TX

Tom Allen- Portland, ME

Janice Schakowsky- Evanston, IL

 William Lacy Clay- St. Louis, MO

Diane Watson- Culver City, CA

Stephen Lynch- Boston, MA

Bernard Sanders- VT (at large)


 

September 25, 2002

The Honorable Dan Burton United States House of Representatives

2185 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Burton:

On behalf of the 220,000 members and 1,200 affiliates of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), I am writing to express grave concerns about the Committee on Government Reform's upcoming hearing entitled "Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders -- Are Children Being Overmedicated?" We believe that the Committee is missing a wonderful opportunity to examine childhood mental disorders and emerging scientific consensus about how best to respond to the needs of children who suffer from these illnesses. Public policy involving treatment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) and other brain disorders must be founded in science, not science fiction or religious ideology.

In 1999, the U.S. Surgeon General's seminal Report on Mental Health contained an entire chapter on treatment of children with mental disorders, including AD/HD. This report documented broad scientific consensus that multi-modal treatment - medication used together with multiple psychosocial interventions in multiple settings - is the most effective intervention for AD/HD. Additionally, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, emphasize the importance of multi-modal treatment, including parent training in diagnosis, treatment and behavior management techniques, educational supports, individual and family counseling and, when necessary, medication. In other words, medications for AD/HD are not an "either-or" proposition, but rather an essential component of a good treatment plan.

The Report of the Surgeon General estimates the school-age prevalence of AD/HD to be between 3 and 5%. Yet, studies consistently document that only 2 to 2.5% of the school-age population currently receive stimulant medication for the treatment of AD/HD. This suggests that there are many children who could be helped but are not being properly screened, diagnosed or treated. Can examples be found of children prescribed stimulant medications who shouldn't be? Undoubtedly, the answer is yes. The continuing evolution of science, coupled with programs to better educate physicians, families and educators, is the best way to prevent inappropriate prescribing of medications and to ensure that those children who require treatment will receive it.

Every day, thousands of parents struggle to get treatment and support services for their children with mental illnesses. Unfortunately, many of these children cannot access the treatment and services they need. As a society, we frequently abandon these children and their families who are trying to help them. The knowledge and tools to help these children recover and thrive are available right now.

This hearing presented an ideal opportunity for the Committee to engage informed scientists in a thoughtful discussion about the current status of research on AD/HD and other childhood mental disorders and how best to properly diagnose and treat these disorders. Instead, the hearing appears to be stacked with witnesses whose quest to discredit the very existence of AD/HD and the value of medication in treating AD/HD and other mental illnesses is well known. It is unfathomable that a hearing on this important topic would be dominated by ideologues, not informed scientists.

NAMI and its 220,000 members and 1,200 affiliates call upon the Committee to take positive steps to communicate accurate and unbiased information about AD/HD, and emerging evidence based practices for treating children with AD/HD and other brain disorders. For children, treatment requires partnerships between parents, physicians and teachers. Medication is not an either/or choice and should be considered in conjunction with a range of treatment options. Policy choices should not distort scientific consensus or prevent or discourage families from getting the help they need.

I would be pleased to meet with you and your staff to discuss steps that can be taken.

Sincerely,

 

Richard C. Birkel, Ph.D Executive Director


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