News RELEASE American Psychiatric Association, 1000 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1825, Arlington, VA 22209 For Information Contact: For Immediate Release: Jason Young, 703-907-8582 or c: 202-669-5929 April 20, 2004 [email protected] Release No. 04-20 APA Deeply Concerned over Louisiana House Vote to Give Prescribing Rights to Psychologists "Patients' Lives at Risk," Warns Goin The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is deeply concerned over yesterday's vote by the Louisiana House of Representatives to grant psychologists, who are not physicians, the right to prescribe powerful brain medications. The House voted 62-31 to pass HB 1426, which would permit self-professed "medical psychologists" to prescribe psychotropic medications - drugs that act on a patient's brain - by getting training that is far short of medical school and residency. "Proponents of this bill are putting patients' lives at risk," said APA President Marcia K. Goin, M.D. "While many people are uncertain about which mental health professionals have medical training, the public should not be fooled by this bill. Psychologists are not medical doctors and, under the bill, wouldn't be required to get the training necessary to safely prescribe potent medications. This bill ignores the real needs of patients and families struggling with mental illnesses and instead creates a substandard level of care." In addition to giving psychologists prescribing rights, the bill would subject prescribing psychologists to the lone oversight of the state Board of Examiners of Psychologists, a regulatory board whose members are not trained in the practice of medicine and cannot judge anyone's medical competency. The Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners has jurisdiction over judging medical competency in the state - including for physicians, lab personnel and even acupuncture assistants - but the bill's proponents would not allow language into the bill to include oversight from the medical board. "This is a classic case of the fox guarding the henhouse," said Goin. "Under this bill, psychologists will be judging their own ability in the medical field. This system cannot and will not ensure the high quality of care that patients want or deserve. Patients and families have said they don't want to be guinea pigs for this unsafe system of care, but so far their concerns have fallen on deaf ears." The bill, similar to measures that have failed in the past, has been on a fast track to the governor this time around. The Senate is expected to hold a floor vote soon on either the House-passed version or its own companion measure, SB 754. "The term 'medical psychologist' is calculated to deceive," concluded Goin. "There is no such thing. Psychologists can help with a broken heart, too, but the logic of this bill would make them cardiac surgeons. For the sake of safe patient care, we urge Louisianans to reject this legislation."