"The American Psychological Association is quite pleased that Louisiana enacted a law allowing prescription privileges for appropriately trained psychologists," says Russ Newman, Ph.D., J.D., executive director for professional practice, American Psychological Association. "This law will help improve access to badly needed care, with current waiting times to see a psychiatrist in Louisiana reported to be as much as six months."
Louisiana House Bill 1426 requires that only psychologists who have completed a post-doctoral master's degree in clinical psychopharmacology from a regionally accredited institution and have passed a national examination approved by the State Board of Examiners of Psychologists can prescribe. In addition, the psychologist, termed by the law as a "medical psychologist," is required to work collaboratively with the patient's physician when prescribing medication. The bill limits the prescriptive authority to medications for nervous and mental health disorders only.
"This is a historic moment for health care in Louisiana," says Cathy Castille, Ph.D., president of the Louisiana Psychological Association. "This law will improve access to care and coordination of care for people needing mental health services."
"A number of independent evaluations of the training like that required by the Louisiana law have clearly demonstrated that psychologists can be trained to prescribe safely and effectively," says Newman. "In fact, the most comprehensive evaluation of training provided to psychologists in the military found that those psychologists who were trained to prescribe 'filled a critical need and served with excellence' wherever they worked. Psychologists are mental health professionals already trained in providing health and mental health services. Allowing properly trained psychologists to prescribe is a logical step in helping to improve access to quality mental health care for consumers."
A psychologist's education and training includes an average of seven years of graduate education beyond the four years of undergraduate work, and several years of supervised clinical training. "Medical psychologist" is a term specifically used in the Louisiana law and refers to psychologists who have completed a post-doctoral master's degree in clinical psychopharmacology; have passed a national examination in psychopharmacology approved by the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists and hold a current certificate of responsibility from the board. The law requires that medical psychologists engage in coursework that includes anatomy, physiology, neuroscience, biochemistry, clinical medicine, general pharmacology and clinical psychopharmacology.
"This is a victory for the people of Louisiana," says James Quillin, Ph.D., M.P., president, Louisiana Academy of Medical Psychologists. "This is model legislation that proves progressive change in our health care system is achievable."
In addition to improving access to care, authorizing appropriately trained psychologists to prescribe also has implications for reducing health care costs. "We know from experience and research findings," says Newman, "that the ability of a single professional to provide combined treatments can provide quality care at a reduced cost when compared with the provision of psychotherapy and medication by separate professionals."
The American Psychological Association (APA), located 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 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its 53 divisions and its affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science and profession, and as a means of promoting health and human welfare.