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A group with links to the Church of Scientology is targeting Australian kindergartens to warn that new health checks will put children at risk from psychotropic drugs.
The federal government is expanding its health checks program, performed by GPs, which ensures children are ready for school by assessing their wellbeing and development.
But the group called the Citizens Commission on Human Rights said these checks could lead to psychotropic drugs being prescribed.
The group warns that common drugs used for hyperactivity, anxiety and depression could have the side-effects of hallucinations, weight loss, stunted growth and heart problems.
Letters have been sent to the directors of kindergartens across the country in the past year. Fine print beneath the group's name reads: "Established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology to investigate and expose psychiatric violations of human rights."
The material sent by mail includes a 90-minute documentary on DVD and two letters outlining the group's concerns that children may unnecessarily be prescribed life-threatening medication.
Some kindergartens have reportedly shared the DVD and information with parents, but one kindergarten director in Melbourne said the campaign preyed on people's greatest vulnerability: concern for their children.
Catherine Waters, director of JJMcMahon Memorial Kindergarten in Kew who received the letter last week, said she saw it "as further deceit on the part of this cult to gain influence in society".
One letter states: "There is no question that children can have problems and need help. However, the wholesale screening of children, the labelling of their behaviour as a mental disorder requiring the prescription of a mind-altering drug is placing Australia's children at risk."
But a spokesman for Minister for Mental Health Mark Butler said much of the material was wrong.
The Medicare-funded Healthy Kids Check began in July 2008. An extra $11 million over five years is now being provided to expand the check to assess speech, sleeping patterns and social engagement in children between 3½ and five.
"It is not mandatory and it is not a mental health check," the spokesman said.
Shelley Wilkins, executive director of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights in Australia, said it was an independent, not-for-profit organisation, staffed by volunteers - not all of whom were Scientologists.