Op-ed: CT shouldn’t rush to offer more mental health care

The CT Mirror – March 20, 2014
By Sheila Matthews Gallo, Co-founder of AbleChild

Balloons hang from the Sandy Hook Elementary School sign in Sandy Hook, in Newtown,In an apparent attempt to respond to the tragic Newtown shooting incident, Connecticut’s legislative agenda includes additional mental health initiatives. The seeming ongoing rush to increase mental health services in the state is ill-advised, given the investigative information made public in the final report of the State Police.

The apparent premise of the legislation is that the people – specifically the children – of Connecticut may be at risk due to an unsubstantiated deficiency in available mental health services. If this premise is based on the tragedy at Sandy Hook and the mental health services provided to Adam Lanza, it couldn’t be more wrong.

Lanza easily could have been called the “poster child” of mental health services, having received what appears to be extensive and continual assistance from age 5 to 15. Lanza was seen by numerous psychiatrists, participated in school mental health specialty programs, was prescribed psychiatric drugs and was treated at several Connecticut hospital psychiatric departments.

Despite Lanza’s lengthy mental health history, it would appear that the constant mental health services he received failed to produce the desired results. That Lanza suffered from one, or several, mental health difficulties isn’t in question. Nor is there any question that the Connecticut mental health community played a large role in Lanza’s life.

In the best interest of the people of Connecticut, rather than rush to costly, ill-informed, mental health legislation, lawmakers must consider that many factors may have played a role in the tragedy at Newtown, including the very mental health services provided to Lanza.

For example, there is no shortage of documentation regarding the connection between psychiatric drugs and violence.

There also is documentation regarding 31 school shootings and/or school related acts of violence having been committed by those taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs, resulting in 162 wounded and 72 killed.

The Connecticut State Police report on the tragedy at Sandy Hook reveals that Lanza had been prescribed the antidepressant Celexa, which carries the FDA’s most serious black box warning. Oddly enough, the final report fails to provide any information about Lanza’s mental health care services after 2007. Why? To date the public has yet to learn what mental health “treatment,” including psychiatric drugs, Lanza received throughout his lengthy association with Connecticut’s mental health system.

With 22 international drug regulatory warnings issued on psychiatric drugs causing violent behavior, including mania, psychosis and homicidal ideation, isn’t it time that the state’s lawmakers look at the whole mental health picture before going into “crisis management” mode and enacting legislative initiatives that may actually be harmful?

The people of Connecticut may be better served if the legislature would consider all aspects of the mental health services already being provided, including the very real, and well-documented, adverse reactions associated with prescription psychiatric drugs – the go-to “treatment” in psychiatric services today.

Sheila Matthews Gallo is co-founder of Ablechild, a national 501c(3) nonprofit organization located in Westport, Ct., and Millbrook, N.Y. The organization fights for informed consent and the right to refuse mental health products and services.