Psychologists will write prescriptions if governor signs bill

By Renata Hill, Moodfuel News

Legislators and mental health advocates anxiously wait for Gov. Jared Polis to decide whether rigorously trained psychologists will be able to prescribe psychotropic medications as one way to alleviate the mental healthcare crisis in Colorado

The Licensed Psychologist Prescriptive Authority Bill (HB 23-1071) would enable rigorously trained psychologists to prescribe psychotropic medications for patients living with mental health challenges. The Colorado senate modified the bill's language and the House passed it yesterday. Now, this legislation – designed as yet another workaround to the state's mental healthcare access crisis – heads to Gov. Jared Polis.

There are five classes of psychotropic medications available in the U.S.:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Stimulants, and
  • Anti-anxiety medications.

Currently in Colorado, a patient can only receive such a prescription from must meet a physician or psychiatrist. As a result, some under-resourced Coloradans go without this type of medication that would improve their quality of life. Others must “choose between large out-of-pocket costs or waiting months for the medication they need,” stated a press release from the Colorado House Democrats.

“Allowing specially-trained psychologists to prescribe medication that best fits their patient’s needs will improve treatment options, reduce costs and increase access to life-saving care for Coloradans with mental illness,” said Rep. Judy Amabile, one of the bill’s sponsors.

If signed into law, licensed psychologists with a Ph.D degree will need to obtain an additional master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology, pass a national board exam, complete 750 hours of supervised practicum, maintain malpractice insurance and complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years.

As reported previously, five other states, including New Mexico, have similar laws on their books. Elaine LeVine, a prescribing psychologist in Las Cruces for the past 20 years, has said that some medical professionals are opposed to allowing psychologists to prescribe because they don’t understand the extensive nature and supervision required by this training.

For now, there are just five universities in the country that offer the required master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology. Creating a path for psychologists to prescribe in Colorado could spur the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus to create such a program, supporters of the measure say.

In states that have allowed psychologists to prescribe, suicide rates have dropped. The data is correlatory, but worth pointing out. Suicides decreased by 5%-7% in New Mexico and Louisiana, for example.

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Supporting people in recovery from trauma and suicidal intensity is my Why. I live differently abled & am proudly part-Indigenous (Mvskoke).
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