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The Case for the Efficacy of Prescribing Psychology: Utilizing Existing Research and Guidelines
David Shearer, Ph.D., MSCP
The Crisis in Behavioral Healthcare Access in Washington
As many of you are aware, access to psychiatric services in Washington State are limited. The Washington Behavioral Health Workforce, chartered by the Governor and Legislature, report that the demand for behavioral healthcare is outstripping the availability of service (2016). Even when a consumer can find a psychiatric provider, they often face long waits times. Access to child psychiatric care can be even more challenging. This crisis in psychiatric care is only going to get worse as many psychiatrists are retiring nationwide and fewer medical students are pursuing psychiatry as a specialty. The demand for psychiatric prescribers is so high that some psychiatric providers are not taking Medicaid reimbursements, putting our most vulnerable citizens in the greatest peril. Mental Health America has ranked Washington State as 45th in the country on measures of mental illness prevalence and access. Tragically, the behavioral health needs of many in our State will continue to go unmet unless we take action.
Improving Access in Washington
There has been a national movement within psychology to license specially trained psychologists to meet the growing need for more prescribers of psychotropic medications. These psychologists, called prescribing psychologists or medical psychologists have an outstanding safety record. Five states have passed laws permitting appropriately trained psychologists to prescribe; New Mexico, Louisiana, Illinois, Iowa and most recently, our neighboring state of Idaho. In two of these states, New Mexico and Louisiana, psychologists have been prescribing for over 10 years. For over 20 years psychologists have been prescribing in all three branches of the military. Prescribing psychologists are also serving consumers in the Indian Health Service and the Pubic Health Service.
Prescribing psychologists are already improving access to appropriate psychotropic medication management in forward thinking states and the federal government. There are additional benefits to having a psychologist prescriber. As psychologist Dr. Daniel Ulman points out When the behavioral health condition requires the use of psychotherapy and mental health medication, the consumer is forced to schedule appointments with one professional for psychotherapy and with another professional for medication management. This split treatment adds a significant burden for the consumer, involving both their time and their money. Prescribing psychologists can provide a single source for both psychotherapy and medication management. You can review a One-Page summary of why we need Prescribing Psychology in Washington on this page.
How Psychologists Can Improve Access to Safe and Effective Psychotropic Medication
Support for prescribing psychology has been the official policy of the American Psychological Association for the past 20 years. Based on positive feedback from Washington State Psychological Association members and psychologists throughout the State (see related news article), WSPA has formed an Prescribing Psychology Taskforce with the goal of pursuing legislation that would create a prescription certificate for psychologists with advanced training in psychotropic medication management. This certificate would be an extra credential for psychologists who have met national training standards enabling them to prescribe medications for mental disorders. This would be a voluntary, supplemental credential with its own set of standards and requirements, and would not affect the general scope of practice of psychology.
WSPA's Prescribing PsychologyTaskforce has written a bill modeled on guidelines from APA, identified a bill sponsor, has hired a lobbyist to assist in this process, and is actively fundraising to support these efforts. Once the proposed bill is introduced in the appropriate legislative committee it will undergo a thorough review process. Bills that pass out of the legislative committee can be introduced in the 2021 legislative session.
What You Can Do to Support This Effort
WSPA has created a specific fund for Prescribing Psychology to help us increase access to safe and effective behavioral health medication management for our consumers. We encourage you to support Prescribing Psychology efforts in Washington by making a donation by clicking on the button below. Contributions of $25, $50, $100 or more are being gratefully accepted.
For a limited time, contributions of $50 or $100 can be deducted from WSPA membership initiation dues, donors will be contacted with an invitation to join WSPA at the discounted rates shown below. Please indicate in the "Purpose of Donation:" section on the donate page that you are interested in membership
|Regular Dues||$50 donation match to discounted initiation dues||$100 donation match to discounted initiation dues|
If you have any questions about Prescribing Psychology efforts in Washington please contact Dr. David Shearer, Chair, WSPA Prescribing Psychology Taskforce at firstname.lastname@example.org
- One Page Summary of Why We Need Prescribing Psychology in Washington
- FAQ Page for Prescribing Psychology
- Psychiatry benefits when psychologists prescribe drugs
Videos Supporting Prescribing Psychology (provided courtesy of Nebraska Psychological Association)