WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 Missouri today joined dozens of states that have recognized the need for improved access to mental health services by introducing legislation that permits psychologists to prescribe medications to help treat mental and emotional disorders, an effort applauded by the American Psychological Association.
"Across the country, it's taking longer and becoming more difficult for people suffering from mental health disorders to see a psychiatrist, particularly in rural areas. When psychologists obtain further training and authority to prescribe medications patients benefit by gaining access to a greater variety of treatment options from a single practitioner," said Dan Abrahamson, Ph.D., assistant executive director of state advocacy for professional practice, American Psychological Association. "The American Psychological Association is pleased to see Missouri recognize the need for improved access to psychological services and join a growing number of states that are pushing for psychologists' authority to prescribe medications."
Like elsewhere in the United States, particularly rural areas, access to mental health services is a serious problem in Missouri. Waiting periods to see a psychiatrist in Missouri range from several weeks to eight months. And while primary care physicians have helped fill a gap, most lack the high-level training in behavioral health and mental health disorders that psychologists have.
Two states have taken steps in helping improve the problem. New Mexico in 2002 became the first state to allow psychologists with additional training and certification to prescribe medications. There are now 13 specially credentialed psychologists in the state. Louisiana passed its law in 2004, and since then, 43 psychologists have received prescriptive authority.
Throughout the nation, dozens of states have introduced their own prescriptive authority legislation. In 2007 alone, bills were introduced by legislators in California, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon and Tennessee. More bills are expected. At least 22 state psychological associations now have active task forces and committees to pursue legislation.
Missouri's proposal for granting licensed psychologists prescriptive authority is similar to the laws in effect in Louisiana and New Mexico. Among other criteria, licensed psychologists would have to complete a post-doctorate master's degree in psychopharmacology, pass a national qualifying exam in psychopharmacology, complete a one-year fellowship, complete an additional one-year collaborative-practice with a physician and then maintain an ongoing referral agreement with a physician.
"APA hopes the lawmakers in Missouri support patients who need mental health services by granting prescriptive authority to licensed psychologists--health care professionals that are already highly trained in diagnosing and treating mental and emotional disorders," Abrahamson said.
The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 148,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.
SOURCE American Psychological Association