Louisiana psychologists can prescribe meds
■ Fifty nonphysicians stand ready to file for prescribing privileges.
By Myrle Croasdale — Posted June 7, 2004
Louisiana's governor signed a bill in May that gives psychologists prescribing authority, making the state the second in the nation to do so.
Psychiatrists said this action puts patients at risk and erodes the quality of medical care. But psychologists said it improves patients' access to mental health treatment.
New Mexico passed prescribing rights for psychologists in 2002 and is expected to begin accepting applications for certificates later this summer. Less than a dozen psychologists are expected to qualify in New Mexico, while some 50 psychologists are anticipated to meet certificate requirements in Louisiana, according to the American Psychological Assn. An estimated 200 psychologists nationwide are thought to have completed postdoctoral prescribing programs, the association said.
Michelle Riba, MD, president of the American Psychiatric Assn., said giving psychologists prescribing authority jeopardizes public safety.
"Gov. [Kathleen] Blanco and the Louisiana State Legislature have codified a dangerous, substandard level of care as legally acceptable in Louisiana," Dr. Riba said.
The American Medical Association also opposes psychologist prescribing.
The law will require psychologists to collaborate with the patient's primary care physician, but psychiatrists called this inadequate.
"There is nothing in the law to ensure that a physician will ever lay eyes on the patient," Dr. Riba said.
Psychiatrists also took issue with the oversight system.
"The law vests sole oversight of prescribing psychologists with the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, a regulatory board whose members are not trained in the practice of medicine and cannot judge the medical competency of anyone," Dr. Riba said.
The psychologists group, on the other hand, sees prescribing rights as a way to increase access to care.
"Louisiana, like New Mexico, had identified a pretty significant access-to-care problem," said Russ Newman, PhD, executive director for professional practice for the American Psychological Assn.