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Family law and parental rights has everything to do with attorneys and how they handle the case for their client.  If you are a parent who is either getting a divorce or already divorced, you know well that parental rights are determined largely by how your attorney services your needs or not.  Once mental health is introduced to the case, the game changes and parental rights may become obsolete.  In a presentation made to the Georgia Annual Bar Admissions Conference, in 2012, Dr. Michael J. Herkov, Neuropsychiatrist, spoke to the attorneys about mental illness. This may, on the surface, seem appropriate to some, but with further thought it seems absurd that an attorney would need to know about mental health. It is an admittance of our times, that mental health and the practice of, has entered into almost every single professional field in our culture. 


Teachers are given courses on mental health so that they can, supposedly, spot children who have learning disorders or behavioral issues and ensure that the student gets the “appropriate attention”.  Law enforcement officers are given courses on mental health so that they can, supposedly, prevent violence and disastrous situations in the community.  Again, on the surface, this may seem appropriate to some, and with further thought it’s actually practicing mental health without a license. 


In reviewing Dr. Herkov’s presentation, he is comparing the physician and the attorney and their value to society. In this comparison he mentions that attorneys “are sought out by the general public during times of personal vulnerability, turmoil, conflict, or stress.” He goes further to say that perhaps the attorney is more sought out than the medical professional during these times. That’s an incredible comparison and a clear path to now introduce the subject of mental health to the profession of law. 


In his own words, Dr. Herkov states, “the client is highly dependent upon the skill of the attorney in understanding and resolving the issue.”


With that in mind, consider the facts instead of the apparent, especially within the family court arena.  Factually, Dr. Allen Frances, former editor of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), “Adding to the woes of the medically ill could be one of the biggest problems caused by DSM 5. It will do this in two ways: 1) by encouraging a quick jump to the erroneous conclusion that someone's physical symptoms are 'all in the head'; and 2) by mislabeling as mental disorders what are really just the normal emotional reactions that people understandably have in response to a medical illness.” Factually, medical professionals have documented that there are medical tests that can be performed to identify physical illness or ailments that are causing mental health problems. Additionally, Dr. Frances is correct when he says that some of the symptoms can be “normal” reactions to life.  The New York Times published an article in 2011, titled, “For Some, Psychiatric Trouble May Start in Thyroid”, and the article reports, “In patients with depression, anxiety and other psychiatric problems, doctors often find abnormal blood levels of thyroid hormone. Treating the problem, they have found, can lead to improvements in mood, memory and cognition. Now researchers are exploring a somewhat controversial link between minor, or subclinical, thyroid problems and some patients’ psychiatric difficulties.” 


Returning to the imposed correlation between attorneys and mental health, Dr. Herkov, tells us, in his presentation at the Bar Admissions Conference, “Attorneys must possess basic cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills. These attributes are often referred to as the ‘essential eligibility requirements’ for the practice of law. The importance of these qualities is well recognized by state boards of bar examiners (and/or their separate character and fitness committees) whose members are charged with verifying that applicants to the bare meet these basic criteria.”


So, not only are attorneys reviewed for their mental health fitness, they are now familiar with the subject of mental illness in dealing with their own practices and clients and that familiarity came from a close scrutiny of their own well-being by the Bar Examiners.  Hence, the double-edged sword; the attorney first reviewed as a potential mental health patient, and then the attorney as the quasi-mental health practitioner.  The standard of care has become mental health diagnosing and medicating.  After all, if an attorney is found to be mentally unfit, meds are prescribed and taken and then he or she is deemed fit. 


No wonder, by the time a parent takes their case into family court, they may feel that their case is already taken a wrong turn. As many parents know, there is a whole cast of characters assigned to divorcees, within the family court arena that are mental health professionals.  Whether that is the child custody evaluator, the parent-coordinator, the guardian ad Litem or the court appointed psychologists, you can add one more to that cast, and that is potentially, your own attorney.  Keep in mind that most attorneys will have had a crash-course in mental health prior to opening the doors to their office.  


When it comes to divorce issues, one issue that is plaguing family courts, is the issue of psychotropic drugging.  If one parent does not want their child to take mental health drugs and the other parent does want the child to take them, the cast of characters, mentioned above, will most assuredly be assigned to the case.  With that, there will be a most definite leaning in the direction of drugging the child. Consider, not only your choice of attorney, who may or may not be on the meds themselves, but also the court appointed professionals.  Dig deep and find out who is influencing the proceedings in your case. 


In a Tampa Bay Times article, the public got a glimpse of the type of psychologist who might work in the family court arena. “As a psychologist who works primarily in the family courts, Flens and others like him stand at an unusual crossroads between social science and the law. Those who occupy it have enormous influence over cases whose emotional stakes are among the judiciary's highest. Expert witnesses who testify about the best custody arrangement for a child can salvage or ruin a parent's life, and their opinions shape the upbringing of the kids involved. These fateful choices command a high price. Court-approved psychologists routinely bill themselves out at rates of hundreds of dollars per hour; a single evaluation can cost litigants $10,000 or more.”


Dr. Herkov’s presentation continues with a definition of mental illness, mental disorders and guidelines for how to determine if the graduate of law school should be able to “engage in the practice of law” or whether they need “further examination, treatment, or monitoring before allowing the individual” to practice law. He uses the definition of mental illness that was published in the fourth edition of the DSM and he uses mental disorders and their definitions from the same manual.  Remember well, that Dr. Frances, former editor of this same manual, is denouncing the credibility of these disorder in that he is adding credibility to the fact that mental health symptoms can be traced back to an underlying physical cause that when evidenced by medical test, can be cured. 


Attorneys and mental health only becomes one more piece of the gigantic, moneymaking, puzzle that is the Pharma-Mental Health industry. An attorney, raked over the coals, in examination by the bar examiners, may learn well, firsthand that mental health disorders leads to mental health drugs and if he or she is placed on them, the cash-register for Pharma-Mental Health only continues to ring.  Once the court-appointed professionals are added to a case, the parent can hear again the ringing of that cash register, at his expense and the expense of his child’s well being. 


Parental rights are a relative term and the only comfort that can be offered is information.  The more information the parent has, prior to any court situation, the more he or she will be able to try to sway the relativity of his or her rights in the right direction.


Www.MentalHealthRights.org offers information to parents so that they can prevent and/or maneuver through these issues. An experienced advocate is available, by phone, for anyone who needs personal attention and information. 






Sources: 


The Bar Examiner, Volume 82, Number 1, march 2013, Mental Illness and The Practice of Law, http://www.ncbex.org/assets/media_files/Bar-Examiner/articles/2013/820113herkov.pdf


Psychology Today: Mislabeling Medical Illness As Mental Disorder, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dsm5-in-distress/201212/mislabeling-medical-illness-mental-disorder


New York Times: For Some, Psychiatric Trouble May Start in Thyroid, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/22/health/for-some-psychiatric-troubles-may-begin-with-the-thyroid.html


Tampa Bay Times Article: Powerful Valrico family court psychologist has a troubled past, http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/civil/powerful-valrico-family-court-psychologist-has-a-troubled-past/2152735


Testimony of Patti Johnson
Colorado State Board of Education member
2nd Congressional District
before the
U.S. House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing entitled
"Behavioral Drugs in Schools: Questions and Concerns"

September 29, 2000


I have been a member of the Colorado State Board of Education for the last six years. One of my platforms when I ran for office was to empower parents in their right to direct the upbringing and education of their children.


Over the years I was contacted by a number of parents who had been pressured to put their children on various psychotropic drugs for a variety of so-called learning disorders, the most common of which was Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In some cases they were told their child would not be allowed to attend school if he did not begin taking psychotropic drugs.


One parent who was given the option of placing her son on a stimulant drug or removing him from school elected to home school her son. She told me that it just didn’t make sense that a straight A student would be labeled "learning disabled." A Douglas County parent I spoke with said she was told her son had ADHD. What she was being told about the behavior her son supposedly exhibited and what she observed were not consistent. She investigated the matter and the school’s special education director eventually admitted that she had coaxed the teacher to answer the questions of the checklist used to determine if the child had ADHD in a certain manner so her son "would get the help he needed." This infuriated her so badly she removed her son from the school.


A Jefferson County parent who contacted me said he at first complied with the school’s direction to have his son take a stimulant drug. The drug caused his son to become violent, he began taking steak knives out of the kitchen and stabbing his stuffed animals. When the parent took him off the drug, the principal of the school began pressuring him to resume the stimulant -- so much pressure that the matter is now in court and the father could forfeit parental rights if he disagrees with the decision of the court on whether or not to place his child on Ritalin. Many more examples exist.


When I investigated the issue I realized that the so-called psychiatric learning disorders are an effort to "medicalize" failures in instruction and discipline at the expense of the child’s well being and the rights of the parent. Some of the learning disorders listed in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) illustrate this point.


For example, the fourth edition lists number "315.1, Mathematics Disorder." The diagnostic criteria for this is "Mathematical ability, as measured by individually administered standardized tests, is substantially below that expected given the person’s chronological age, measured intelligence, and age-appropriate education." Likewise, the diagnostic criteria for "315.2, Disorder of Written Expression" labels the child with this disorder if he scores low on written tests.


The label of ADHD is assigned if the child exhibits such symptoms as not listening when spoken to, is forgetful, fails to finish homework, fidgets, talks excessively, etc. -- the typical behavior of a normal child. Parents of children said to have these disorders are generally told that it is a neurological disorder or a chemical imbalance in the brain. Yet, at a Consensus Development Panel conducted by the National Institutes of Health on ADHD in November 1998, it was reported that "We do not have an independent, valid test for ADHD, and there are no data to indicate that ADHD is due to a brain malfunction. Further research to establish the validity of the disorder continues to be a problem. This is not unique to ADHD, but applies as well to most psychiatric disorders..."


Educators are not allowed by law to practice medicine. Yet, the adjudication a child has one of these "disorders" and should be placed on "medication" and into special education is often done by a team which includes the parent, a teacher, a social worker, a special education teacher and the principal. The above factors led me to introduce a resolution before the Colorado State Board of Education entitled "Promoting the use of academic solutions to resolve problems with behavior, attention and learning." It reminded educators that their role was to teach and urged them to refrain from advising parents on medical matters. This was passed by a vote of 6 to 1 by the Board in November 1999.


Unfortunately, financial incentives exist for schools to label children with learning disorders. Understanding these incentives requires a brief review of the laws that affect special education.


The legislation which is now the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was originally the Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975. The intent of this legislation was to ensure that children with actual physical handicaps -- sight impairment, hearing loss, etc. -- were given the public education they are entitled to.


This law was reauthorized in 1990 and the name changed to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. There were few procedural changes but the term "handicapped" was changed to "disabilities." The following year a memo was issued by the US Dept. of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services which stated a child could qualify for special education if he was determined to have ADHD.


At this time, the IDEA legislation provided schools with an additional $400 per year for each child in special education. There followed a dramatic spike in the amount of methylphenidate consumed in the US. According to the DEA, the production and use of methylphenidate increased almost 6 fold between 1990 and 1995.


In IDEA as passed in 1999, the impairment category of "emotional disturbance." is defined in part to say the child has "An inability to learn that can not be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors." There is no mention of the fact that this may be due to a failure to instruct properly.


In December 1999, the Los Angeles Times reported that tens of thousands of California’s special education students were placed there not because they have a serious mental or emotional handicap, but because they were never taught to read properly. Reid Lyon, head of the federal government’s research efforts into reading and writing told the Times, "It’s where children who weren’t taught well go in many cases."


The intent of the original law, the Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975, was to ensure those with physical disabilities received a free and appropriate public education. These children are now being shortchanged because such a large percentage of special education funds are being diverted to vague psychiatric diagnoses. In 1998, 51.1 percent of special education children were in the category of "specific learning disabilities." These are the psychiatric diagnoses such as Mathematics Disorder, Disorder of Written expression and ADHD. Other disability categories also include psychiatric diagnoses.


IDEA legislation also contains a "child find" provision which requires states to actively seek out any children who may qualify for special education in order to receive federal special education funds. The child find program starts at birth in Colorado. This, of course, serves to push up the numbers of children labeled with ADHD.


The so-called learning disorders have, sadly, become a way for financially strapped schools to make ends meet. In many states, schools have become authorized Medicaid providers and funds can be collected in behalf of a child labeled with one of the learning or behavior disorders. This can be such a lucrative cash cow that in a letter dated October 8, 1996, the Illinois State Board of Education strongly encouraged the superintendent of one of its districts to participate in Medicaid incentives. The letter stated that Illinois had received $72,500,000 in federal Medicaid money in 1996 and that Medicaid dollars have been used for a variety of non-medical purposes and that "the potential for the dollars is limitless."


To assist schools in identifying children to label with "learning disorders," a number of checklists are made available to schools through the ERIC (Educational Resource and Information Center) database, which is a federal clearing house for educational materials. Yet, despite the expense created by such actions, these children are not receiving the education they are entitled to. Though the standards set for special education children are often lower, their graduation rate in the 1995 -1996 year was only 28.9 percent!


To the degree educators are expected to diagnose children, they are being distracted from their main duty which is to provide our children a quality education. Our schools are the only institution entrusted to attend to the academic needs of our children and their mission must not be diluted. I urge this committee to do everything in its power to get schools out of the business of labeling children and back to the job of teaching.


Thank you.


Patti Johnson
Colorado State Board of Education
Second Congressional District


Remember when others hijack your family, their misdeeds do not define you.  What defines you is what you do when it counts.  Jeremy Glick, a former national judo champion, was on United Flight 93 to fulfill his divine purpose.  His life was in preparation for that moment.  His selfless actions saved countless others.  So instead of sinking into self-pity over the hand you've been dealt, be grateful for the opportunity to bring your family's hijackers down before they can hurt countless others.  Every second counts.  What are you going to do with your time?  What are you going to do to help other children and families whose lives have been hijacked by pharmaceutical company greed, mental health industry chicanery, and institutionalized chemical restraint in public schools, child welfare services, and family/dependency courts?  What special skills do you bring to the struggle that can benefit others?  Dig deep, and do your part.  This is your time.


Jeremy Glick: American Hero

On September 11, 2001, Jeremy Logan Glick, 31, reluctantly left his Hewitt, New Jersey home on business as a sales manager with Vividence, Inc., a Web management company. He relished every moment he had with his three-month old daughter, Emerson, and wife, Lyz. One of six siblings raised in Oradell, New Jersey, Jeremy graduated from the University of Rochester and married his high school sweetheart. When confronted with the hijack situation on Flight 93, Glick phoned his wife. She recalls him calmly describing the terrorists and their threats. Glick, a former national collegiate judo champion and black belt, spoke to Lyz of plans being made by the passengers and crew to rush the terrorists. As their call ended, Glick told his wife he loved her and needed her to be happy.