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Prescription failure in Oregon frustrates psychologists

A few years ago, psychologists seeking prescription privileges were on a roll--Louisiana and New Mexico came on board, and other states seemed ready to tumble. Since then, they’ve come up short, watching new laws teeter on the brink of approval--only to die by veto on the governor’s desk.

The latest example is Oregon, where the legislature passed a prescription law for psychologists in February, then saw it vetoed by Governor Ted Kulongoski in April. Hawaii’s prescription law went the same way in 2007.

In explaining the veto, Kulongoski said he thought prescriptive authority for psychologists "requires more safeguards" as well as "further study and greater public input."

What’s next? According to Sophie Bethune at the American Psychological Association, other legislative efforts are underway this year in Arizona, Illinois, and Mississippi. But all three are in the preliminary stages--and won’t come to fruition anytime soon.

Meanwhile, even where prescribing laws have succeeded, participation has been modest. In New Mexico--where the law passed in March, 2002--there are all of 16 "certified" psychologists in the prescription program, and another 27 with conditional permits that require physician supervision.

"It’s a lot fewer people than you might expect," Amelia Myer, executive director of the New Mexico Psychological Association, tells us. "There are more psychologists in training, but it’s a lengthy process. There’s also been some difficulty in getting people supervision."

Louisiana’s program is a little busier. Since passing its law in 2004, the state has licensed 55 "medical psychologists," and another 20 are ready to finish the training program. That’s according to James Quillin, a prescribing psychologist who assisted in the legislative push six years ago.

Why does Quillin believe that efforts in other states have been stymied? "Politics," he says. Which is to say, physicians have out-politicked psychologists. "But [psychologists] are pretty good at politics in Louisiana," he adds. "And this has been a fairly progressive state in terms of integrating medical care and psychological services."

A key to making the pitch to lawmakers was the concept of "one-stop treatment," Quillin explains. Many medical psychologists are working in clinics, but others are in solo practice.

A major change to the Louisiana law took place on January 1: Prescribing psychologists are now licensed by the state’s Board of Medical Examiners instead of the Board of Examiners of Psychologists. Some practitioners maintain a license with both, however.

Contacts: 1) Amelia Myer, New Mexico Psychological Association, 8205 Spain Rd. NE, Ste. 202, Albuquerque, NM 87109, (505)883-7376; 2) James Quillin, 1016 Calais Circle, Alexandria, LA 71303, (318)442-7355.



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