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Forced Behavioral Assessments Is A Step Too Far

To the Editor:

As a Newtown mother, I have come across e-mails warning me of multiple pieces of proposed legislation being presented in our state at this time. What shocks me most of all is the fact that they affect all public and home school families, yet not one parent that I have spoken with has heard of them.

The specific bill causing the biggest uproar is Senate Bill #374. The text of this bill reads: “An Act Requiring Behavioral Health Assessments For Children. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened: That section 10-206 of the general statutes be amended to require (1) each pupil enrolled in public school at grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 and each home-schooled child at ages 12, 14 and 17 to have a confidential behavioral health assessment, the results of which shall be disclosed only to the child's parent or guardian, and (2) each health care provider performing a child's behavioral health assessment to complete the appropriate form supplied by the State Board of Education verifying that the child has received the assessment. Statement of Purpose: To provide behavioral health assessments to children.”

So, what this means that if passed, every parent of children in grades 6,8, 10 and 12 as well as every home school student of the ages 12, 14 and 17 will be forced to have a behavioral health assessment. After speaking to multiple representatives' aides, they have stated this is in great part due to the Sandy Hook tragedy. I applaud the idea that greater mental health options and treatments would be made available to those in need. I absolutely believe that is not the state’s place to make decisions on who should be assessed or when it should happen. I believe that families are both aware and capable enough to make this decision for themselves.

We should provide as many treatment options as possible to meet the needs of those who request it. But notice the purpose statement...To provide behavioral health assessments to children. If I am forced to do something, that is not an option. This is not merely a provision but a demand. It is very general and leaves the door open for interpretation and execution as the state and/or school sees fit. I am thankful for the network that has informed me of this issue and am angry to think that this information has not been distributed to the general public.

I hope that all families would at least be informed and given the opportunity to make their voices heard before our freedom is taken away. Please tell your neighbors, tell your friends and ask “Why haven't we been told about this before?”

Faith Dignan

5 Bari Drive, Newtown             March 3, 2013

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