Legislation would allow psychologists to prescribe meds

Legislation would allow psychologists to prescribe meds

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Illinois could become the third state in the country to allow psychologists to prescribe medication for mental illnesses.

A bill now on Governor Pat Quinn’s desk would allow specially-trained psychologists to write drug prescriptions. Supporters said it will expand care for the mentally ill, but others have doubts about the proposal.

The power to prescribe drugs was traditionally reserved to doctors alone. In recent years, it was granted to others such as physicians' assistants and Nurse Practitioners. Both of those categories of health care professionals had to complete rigorous medical education programs lasting up to 3 years.

When the General Assembly this spring proposed adding psychologists who have no such training, some were alarmed because psychiatric drugs are so powerful and many of the mentally ill also take other medications.

“The drug-drug interactions between the psychiatric meds and the meds they take for their other diseases are extremely complicated and could be disastrous if not adequately monitored,” said Dr. Shastri Swaminathan, a psychiatrist.

Those arguments persuaded the proposal's chief sponsor in the General Assembly to add requirements for extensive medical training for any psychologist wanting to prescribe drugs. They must also work closely with a medical doctor.

State Sen. Don Harmon said that in too many places in Illinois, it's hard for mental patients to find treatment.

“Today a patient needs to go to a psychologist for their therapy and to a psychiatrist for their prescription. That means they've got to find two doctors. Today, if this goes through, the psychologist will be able to partner with a family doctor or another doctor,” said Sen. Harmon.

Opponents of the bill claim psychologists are not medical doctors, and that they aren’t qualified to prescribe medication. They also said allowing others, besides doctors, to write prescriptions will compromise patient care.

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