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Deborah Baker, JD, focuses on prescriptive authority, scope of practice/licensure and telehealth

By Communications Staff

May 26, 2011—Director for Prescriptive Authority & Regulatory Affairs, Deborah Baker, JD, navigates the legal and regulatory issues impacting the practice of psychology while enjoying “the teamwork and camaraderie” of the APA Practice Directorate.

Deborah Baker, JDAn attorney in the Practice Directorate’s Legal and Regulatory Affairs department since 2004, Baker focuses on three main areas: prescriptive authority, scope of practice/licensure and telehealth.

“Working with others –Practice staff colleagues, other APA staff, state psychological associations, APA governance members and individual members – is an integral and rewarding part of my job,” she says. “So not only do I find the issues with which I deal regularly to be interesting but I appreciate that my job allows me so many opportunities to collaborate.”

Baker stresses that while “we can’t give specific legal advice,” she and her colleagues can offer “helpful guidance navigating managed care, scope of practice and legal-regulatory issues at the state level.” She encourages members to join and utilize their state psychological associations. “We work in tandem with the state folks often, and it’s really helpful for members to coordinate with their state psychological association on state-based issues, such as scope of practice,” she says.

Prescriptive Authority

The APA Practice Organization supports the efforts of our state, provincial and territorial psychological association partners to obtain prescriptive authority for qualified, licensed psychologists to help fill the need for access to comprehensive, quality mental health care.

Baker consults with state associations, governance groups and individual members on organized psychology’s prescriptive authority efforts, including state legislation to enact prescriptive authority for appropriately trained psychologists. Baker serves as one of three staff liaisons to the APA Designation Committee for Postdoctoral Education and Training Programs in Psychopharmacology for Prescriptive Authority, which outlines the minimum standards of program quality for psychopharmacology education and training programs, and staffs the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP)’s Subcommittee on Prescription Privileges.

Psychologists have gained prescriptive authority in New Mexico, Louisiana and Guam as well as in the Department of Defense, U.S. Public Health Service and Indian Health Services. Close battles have been fought in recent years in Oregon and Hawaii, with neither state's legislation surviving the governor's veto.

“Access to health care services is a critical issue for consumers,” says Baker. “Prescriptive authority isn’t necessarily for all psychologists, but those who can prescribe address a great need.”  

Telehealth

Thanks to advances in technology, health care professionals have the means to interact with their patients without being in the same room.  But different states have different rules. Baker and others at APA are following the issue of providing telehealth services in and across states. Along with her colleagues in Legal & Regulatory Affairs and Practice Research & Policy, she compiled a list of online telehealth resources for practitioners, and conducted a 50-state review of telehealth laws (PDF, 1.88MB) (Note: this protected content is available only to Practice Assessment payers) and relevant statutory provisions, as well as an informal phone survey of nearly all psychology licensing boards.

Baker will be providing support to a new Task Force on Telepsychology formed early this year to develop guidelines for psychologists to help them navigate the numerous ethical, regulatory, legal and other practice-related issues that arise in using technology to deliver psychological services. The three organizations involved in this collaborative effort have appointed their members to the 10-member task force. The task force members represent the APA (four members), the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (four members) and the American Psychological Association Insurance Trust (two members).

In addition to researching telehealth issues impacting psychologists, Baker interfaces with the American Telehealth Association to keep abreast of issues impacting behavioral health and telehealth technology to better inform APA Practice Directorate’s efforts and issues affecting our members.

Scope of Practice

Baker and Practice Directorate colleague Sophie Bethune, director, public relations & special projects, participate in the Coalition for Patients’ Rights (CPR) on behalf of the APA Practice Organization (APAPO). CPR was established in response to organized medicine’s initiative to limit any scope of practice changes by non-physician providers. APAPO is a founding member of the coalition, which comprises more than 35 national professional membership organizations representing a wide spectrum of non-physician health care disciplines.

Baker works with state associations on licensure issues, promoting APA policy recognizing the doctorate as the minimum educational requirement for entry into professional practice as a psychologist.

With so much going on, Baker is skilled at multitasking. “We provide research and counsel to state associations, members and our colleagues in Practice,” Baker explains. “With issues popping up at any time, in any context, it’s crucial we be responsive and flexible.”

And when Baker finds herself working overtime on behalf of psychology, her 3 year-old daughter reminds her to slow down. Playing recently, the little girl picked up Baker’s cell phone and said, ‘I just need to answer this email, Mommy.’

“Like psychologists, my daughter knows the importance of work/life balance,” Baker says.