A win for hospital patient care in California

by Public Relations Staff

April 26, 2005 — California patients suffering from serious mental illness will now have the benefit of having their inpatient care managed by psychologists with full hospital privileges. The California Department of Health Services (DHS) has issued regulations that allow psychologists in that state to serve their patients in acute-care hospitals as attending practitioners.

The new rules allow both psychologists and psychiatrists to direct patient care as members of a hospital medical staff, including making decisions on when to admit, transfer, and discharge patients. The rules recognize California psychologists’ expertise in diagnosing and treating mental disorders.

The new regulations are a result of longstanding efforts by organized psychology to enforce laws already on the books. The regulations resulted from recent negotiations between DHS and Psychology Shield, a non-profit organization devoted to improving patient care in California’s state-operated mental hospitals. Psychology Shield is supported by APA, the California Psychological Association (CPA), and other individuals and organizations including the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 2620.

“California psychologists working in hospital settings, and well within the scope of their licenses, will be able to fully serve their patients as attending clinicians,” says Russ Newman, PhD, JD, APA executive director for professional practice.

In 1978, California enacted a law granting psychologists full clinical privileges in hospitals and the authority to direct patient care as members of hospital medical staffs. In 1990, the California Supreme Court affirmed the law in CAPP v. Rank and ruled that psychologists have the legal authority to practice independently in both private and public health facilities. In spite of the Court’s ruling, over the past 15 years psychologists were prevented from directing patient care in California state mental hospitals.

Seventeen other states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws allowing hospital privileges for psychologists.