December 14, 2004 NEW MEXICO FIRST STATE TO IMPLEMENT PRESCRIBING LAW FOR PSYCHOLOGISTS New Mexico will soon become the first state in the nation to implement a prescribing law for psychologists. Regulations that will implement a state law granting appropriately trained psychologists in New Mexico the authority to prescribe psychotropic medications were filed with the Administrative Law Division of the New Mexico State Records Center And Archives on Wednesday, December 8. The regulations become effective on January 7, 2005. This is an historic day in the sense that for the first time in the countrys history, rules and regulations have been filed allowing appropriately trained psychologists to prescribe psychotropic medications, said E. Mario Marquez, Ph.D., legislative chair of the New Mexico Psychological Association (NMPA). New Mexico prescribing psychologists are paving the way for the other states to provide a new means of offering quality mental health care. The new regulations--developed by a joint committee of physicians and psychologists -- allow appropriately trained and licensed New Mexico psychologists to prescribe psychotropic medications. To receive a prescribing certificate in New Mexico, psychologists must complete at least 450 hours of coursework; an 80-hour practicum in clinical assessment and pathophysiology; a 400 hour/100 patient practicum under physician supervision; and pass a national certification examination. The academic component includes psychopharmacology, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, clinical pharmacology, pathophysiology, pharmacotherapeutics, pharmacoepidemiology, as well as physical and lab assessments. According to the prescription privileges law, after completing coursework, supervised training and passing a national exam, psychologists licensed to practice in New Mexico are eligible for a two-year conditional prescription certificate allowing them to prescribe under supervision of a physician. At the end of two years, if the supervisor approves and the psychologist's prescribing records pass an independent peer review, the psychologist can apply to prescribe independently. Only at that point will prescribing psychologists work independently, albeit in close collaboration with the patients physician. There are more than 40 psychologists in New Mexico who already have completed the training or are currently enrolled in a training program, says Elaine LeVine, Ph.D., Director of the Southwestern Institute for the Advancement of Psychotherapy/New Mexico State University Collaborative, the New Mexico psychopharmacology training program for psychologists. These psychologists are very experienced practitioners who also completed seven years of doctoral training including two years of supervised practice in order to become licensed as psychologists before undertaking the extensive training in psychopharmacology. The collaboration provisions of the regulations codify good clinical practice. This collaboration includes not only having the psychologist initiate contact with the patients physician when medication is warranted, but also having the physician initiate contact with the patients psychologist when any changes in the patients medical condition might affect the treatment being provided by the psychologist. Currently, many individuals and families face waiting periods ranging from several weeks to five months or have to travel long distances in order to see a psychiatrist, says Ed Snyder, Ph.D., NMPA President. With the adoption of these regulations, the New Mexico psychologists who have completed, or will complete the required didactic and practicum training will be in a position to provide badly needed psychological and psychopharmacological treatment services, working in collaboration with patients primary treating health care practitioners. New Mexico was the first state to enact a prescribing law for psychologists in March 2002, following the passage of similar legislation by the Legislature of the Territory of Guam in 1998. Louisiana passed similar legislation in May 2004.