A legislative commission in Colorado introduced a bill Wednesday that would allow licensed psychologists to be licensed to prescribe and administer psychotropic drugs.
If a psychologist currently providing treatment or counseling determines that a patient needs a drug such as an antidepressant, the patient must be referred to a psychiatrist or doctor for a prescription. But due to the shortage of prescribers in Colorado, the process can take months to complete, and the patient will have to pay for the treatment twice.
If House Bill 1071 passes full Congress, more than 3,000 psychologists working in Colorado will soon be eligible to prescribe themselves. By comparison, there are only about 600 psychiatrists currently active in Colorado.
“Not having access to medicine when you need it is not the slightest inconvenience,” said Rep. Judy Amabile of D-Boulder, which sponsored the bill. “It is a life-changing outcome for many people. It can mean job loss, divorce, custody battles, criminal justice involvement, hospitalization, ER visits, suicide. Too many people can’t.”
This commitment comes as the 2022 State of Mental Health in America. report ranked Colorado as the worst adult mental health state in the country. The year before, Children’s Hospital Colorado emergency For Youth Mental Health, as suicide is the leading cause of death for children ages 14 to 19 in Colorado.
In Denver, the city with the highest concentration of psychiatrists in the state, wait times for prescribers are more than six months, said the bill’s other sponsor, Rep. Mary Bradfield (R-Colorado Springs). said.
Additionally, in Colorado, only 12% of patients sent to another office for mental health care completed treatment, Bradfield said, while those who were provided the same care at their current office was 77%.
“At the heart of this bill is expanding access to care, access to life-saving medicine,” said Bradfield. “Access to mental health care in our state is strained and insufficient to meet the growing need in every corner of Colorado. It’s about ensuring that people get the mental health treatment and services they need, when they need them.”
The House Public and Behavioral Health and Human Services Committee voted 10 to 1 in favor of the bill on Wednesday and forwarded it to the House as a whole for consideration.・Story It was only Congressman.
The bill has received bipartisan support from lawmakers, but the mental health community is divided. Dozens of psychiatrists and psychologists testified at Wednesday’s committee meeting and debated the bill’s effectiveness for more than four hours.
Opponents in the psychiatric industry have expressed concern about allowing psychologists without medical training to prescribe drugs, questioning how drugs affect the body or how physical illness can affect mental health. He said he didn’t understand how it manifested itself as a health problem.
“Psychiatric drugs affect every system in the body,” says Dr. Nadia Haddad of the Colorado Psychiatric Association. It can cause diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid problems, liver and kidney problems.”
Under the bill, psychologists would be conditionally eligible if they had a doctorate in psychology, a master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology, passed the national psychopharmacology exam, and had professional liability insurance. You can apply for authorization to prescribe drugs. State psychologist examination boards decide whether to be certified.
Psychologists held conditional certification for two years, during which they could prescribe and administer medications only under the supervision of a doctor or nurse. After two years, the psychologist maintains her license and insurance and can apply for full certification and work unsupervised, as long as she completes at least 20 hours of her continuing education per year.
Proponents of the bill noted that the two-year supervision period for prescribing psychologists and the permanent requirement to inform patients’ doctors of what they are prescribing makes the program safe.
“These psychologists can enhance the care they provide to patients in a proven and safe manner and are of great value to the state as a whole,” said Brian Bourmund, Ph.D., president of the Colorado Psychological Association. increase.
Five states—New Mexico, Louisiana, Illinois, Iowa, Idaho—and the U.S. military already allow psychologists to prescribe mental health medications. According to Healthier Colorado, in New Mexico and Louisiana, giving psychologists prescriptive powers reduced deaths from suicide by 5% to 7%.
There are currently about 250 prescribing psychologists working nationwide. From 2005 to 2021, he had only 14 board complaints against psychologist prescriptions. Half of those cases were dismissed, and he was the only one paid out to the plaintiff, according to Trust Risk Management Services, which provides liability insurance to psychologists.
Proponents of the bill defended the data as evidence of the program’s success in other states, but opponents argued that, given that there are only 250 prescribing psychologists nationwide, the program could be used by Colorado prescribers. did not significantly increase access to
“This bill is an implementation to address the complex needs of children and families who struggle to get the quality behavioral health care they deserve,” said Kathy Littler, M.D., president of the Colorado Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It does not offer a possible solution.
But many Coloradoans struggling to find mental health care testified Wednesday that lawmakers need to do something to improve the current system.
Amelia Federico, a college student in Denver, sought treatment for severe depression in high school and searched for months until she found a therapist who accepted insurance, was available, and felt at ease. was recommended anti-anxiety medication. I was then told I would have to start the process of finding a provider all over again.
While researching psychiatrists, Federico learned that the average out-of-pocket expense, not including the cost of medication, was about $100. She said that’s a month’s worth of groceries for her.
“In the end, I couldn’t afford to pay for both a psychiatrist and a therapist, so I couldn’t afford the luxury of medication that I desperately needed,” Federico said. , is a reality we continue to live in … we have to work together to pass this bill.”