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What? Are You Crazy?

A nationwide initiative has been quietly in the making since 2002.  Conceived in Texas, apparently with President George W. Bush’s enthusiastic blessing, there are now some 27 sites around the country piloting various parts of it.  Nationally, however, the proposed legislation earned barely a blip on the radar screen—the project is so hush-hush that two officials were sacked for speaking to the press about it—until mid-July, when the House Appropriations Committee approved $20 million in new federal monies to begin nationwide implementation.

The New Freedom Initiative is a plan to screen the entire U.S. population for mental illness and to provide a cradle-to-grave continuum of services for those identified as either mentally ill or at risk of becoming so.  Under the plan, schools would become hubs of the screening process—not only for children but for their parents and teachers.  There are even components aimed at senior citizens, pregnant women, and new mothers.

In April 2002, President Bush established the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health to conduct a “comprehensive study of the United States mental health service delivery system.”  The commission issued its recommendations in July 2003, chief among them being that schools are in a “key position” to screen the 52 million students and 6 million adults who work at educational...

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