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- Apr 17, 2004
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I suppose medical school and residency are becoming irrelevant...
Senate committee passes bill allowing psychologists to prescribe drugs
March 13, 2013|By Rafael Guerrero, Chicago Tribune reporter
Illinois psychologists won the opening round Tuesday in their fight to join psychiatrists in prescribing drugs to patients.
Despite protests by psychiatrists and physicians, the Senate Public Health Committee voted 8-0 to advance a measure that would allow psychologists to prescribe medications after acquiring a master's degree in psychopharmacology. They also would have to pass a national certification exam and renew certification every two years.
Sponsoring Sen. Don Harmon said the bill is in response to a diminishing number of psychiatrists in the state.
"Illinois faces a critical shortage in mental health professionals who are trained to prescribe medicine, resulting in inadequate treatment for mental illness across the state," said Harmon, D-Oak Park.
Opponents argued the degree requirement of 462 hours — some of which can be completed through online courses — takes lightly all the years of medical school psychiatrists must go through.
"It's an invasive procedure when somebody takes medication — it affects their entire body," said Linda Gruenberg, president of the Illinois Psychiatric Society. "Without comprehensive medical education that you get from four years of medical school, four years of residency training and practice, you are not prepared to prescribe psychotropic medication."
The legislation would "lower the bar to prescribe medications in Illinois to the lowest standards in the country," added Daniel Yohanna, a University of Chicago psychiatrist and a past president of the psychiatric society.
After the vote, Yohanna said opponents now must lobby senators to defeat the "unsafe bill."
If the bill is approved, Illinois would become the third state with such a law, joining Louisiana and New Mexico, said Nadia Webb, a professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. The United States military also allows psychologists to prescribe drugs. All told, Webb said, there are at least 300 certified prescribing psychologists in the nation.
"I am convinced that there is a safe track record going back years in several states," said Thomas Brady, a California psychiatrist who trains some of the psychologists who prescribe medication. "It leads me to conclude that they (prescribing psychologists) can prescribe safely."