VRI'S findings, however, quickly became overshadowed when Congress mandated another examination of the PDP. This time the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) was to conduct the examination. The GAO report (1997) concluded the PDP was too costly, reporting a total of $610,000 per PDP graduate (Sammons, Levant and Paige, 2003). The GAO (1997, 1999) concluded that prescribing psychologists were unnecessary to meet the medical readiness mission of the Military Health System. GAO contended that an existing oversupply of military psychiatrists made prescribing psychologists unnecessary. Sammons, Levant, and Paige (2003) suggest political underpinnings and methodological flaws with the GAO report and contend that there was, in fact, a well-documented shortage of psychiatrists within the U.S. Army, shortages which were reportedly communicated to the GAO team. Sammons, Levant, and Paige (2003) also contend estimates used by the GAO team "erroneously included expenditures for facilities and faculty that were already in place at USUHS regardless of whether PDP fellows attended classes there."
Nevertheless, on the basis of the GAO report, the Senate appropriations bill ceased subsequent enrollment of new fellows. Only existing fellows were allowed to continue with training; graduates of the PDP were allowed to practice as prescribing military psychologists.
Although the PDP has ceased, there were important lessons to be learned from the project. First, regarding safety and effectiveness of prescribing military psychologists; conclusions from both Vector Research, Inc. (1996) and U.S. General Accounting Office (1997) support the notion that psychologists can be trained to safely prescribe psychotropic medications.
Here's some of it.
They argue that research has "failed to find significant differences between psychologists and psychiatrists in their capabilities as therapists" (Brentar and McNamara, 1991).
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By Kolin A. Van Winkle, EdD, NCC, LPC, FAPA
Dr. Kolin A. Van Winkle, Fellow of the American Psychotherapy Association, is a Board Certified School Psychologist and Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). He earned his doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology at the American School of Professional Psychology (Argosy University) in California. He served as the chief counseling psychologist for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Division in Ohio. Dr. Van Winkle is currently working in a private practice setting as a post-doctoral fellow.