Prescriptive authority legislation moving forward in New Jersey and Illinois
By Legal and Regulatory Affairs staff
Two bills are pending in New Jersey and Illinois that, if passed, would grant prescriptive authority to psychologists who have obtained additional post-doctoral training in psychopharmacology and who meet other requirements established by the legislation.
Illinois Psychological Association president Beth N. Rom-Rymer, PhD, estimates there are 4900 clinical psychologists in Illinois, a quarter of whom are interested in becoming prescribing psychologists. "We could have at least 1000 prescribing psychologists in Illinois in the next 5 years," says Rom-Rymer. "For the citizens of Illinois who do not now receive mental health services or who receive insufficient mental health services, this increase in the numbers of prescribing mental health providers will begin to create a more robust and responsive mental health system."
In Illinois, Senate Bill 2187 passed out of committee and was approved by a Senate vote of 37-10. The bill has now been transferred to the House and assigned to a committee. It will need to be approved by the House committee and called up for a floor vote before the end of May, when Illinois' legislative session ends. The bill requires a collaborative practice agreement between the psychologist and a physician formalizing an active collaborative and consultative relationship.
New Jersey's Assembly Bill 2419 was introduced last fall, and passed the Assembly on April 29 with a vote of 41-27-8. It now faces review in a Senate committee before it can be called up for a vote.
Robert McGrath, PhD, director of the Master of Science Program in Clinical Psychopharmacology at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey believes that the experiences of psychologists in the military, the Public Health Service, the Indian Health Service, Louisiana and New Mexico demonstrate that psychologists can be safe and effective prescribers. "We are in the midst of a dramatic shift in the U.S. health care system, one that will create new challenges in terms of access to optimal care for the people of New Jersey," says McGrath. "It will be essential that all professions be allowed to operate at their maximum level of competence. For appropriately trained psychologists, that includes prescriptive authority."
Both Illinois' and New Jersey's bills require a post-doctoral master's degree in clinical psychopharmacology, although New Jersey's bill also recognizes equivalent training so long as it includes "a structured sequence of study in an organized program" in core content areas, including but not limited to basic life sciences, neurosciences, pharmacology/psychopharmacology, clinical medicine and pathophysiology. This requirement is consistent with APA's recommendations for Education and Training in Psychopharmacology for Prescriptive Authority (PDF, 85.6KB).
Illinois' clinical training requirement is similar to what is required under New Mexico's prescriptive authority law for psychologists: 80-hour practicum in clinical assessment and pathophysiology, plus 400 hours of supervised clinical training. The Illinois bill specifies that a portion of that clinical training occur in at least one of the specified settings: correctional facilities, federally qualified health centers, community service agencies servicing the seriously mentally ill or local/state/federal facilities. New Jersey also requires relevant clinical training treating a diverse patient population under the supervision of qualified providers, such as licensed physicians or prescribing psychologists.
Both bills also require passage of a national certification exam, such as the Psychopharmacology Examination for Psychologists (PEP).