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February 27, 2023

Bill to Increase Access to Mental Health Treatment Heads to Governor Polis

HB23-1071 would allow psychologists to prescribe limited mental health medications

DENVER, CO – The House today approved Senate changes to HB23-1071, sending the bill to Governor Polis for his signature. This bill, sponsored by Representative Amabile, would allow psychologists to prescribe limited mental health medications after receiving additional education and training. 

“Colorado is experiencing a mental health crisis, and many patients across our state are waiting weeks or months for their appointment with a licensed prescriber,” said Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder. “This bill will give prescribing authority to psychologists who receive additional training and education so Coloradans can get the mental health treatment they need, when they need it. We know psychologists often have well-established relationships with their patients and a deep understanding of how to treat mental illness. This bill bridges a gap in mental health care access by helping Coloradans receive treatment faster.” 

HB23-1071, also sponsored by Representative Mary Bradfield, establishes rigorous standards and education requirements that a psychologist must undertake before being able to prescribe medication to treat mental health illnesses. The House repassed the amended version of HB23-1071 by a vote of 57 to 5. 

Only licensed Ph.D. psychologists who receive an additional master’s degree in

psychopharmacology, pass a national board exam, complete a preceptorship for up to two years, 750 hours of practicum work, and spend two additional years prescribing under the supervision of trained licensed prescribing clinicians or specialty provider if wanting to work with the pediatric or geriatric population will be able to prescribe.

Once licensed, psychologists would work in conjunction with the patient’s primary care provider or general practitioner team to ensure that any prescribed medication is being monitored and working effectively for whole care health. Under this bill, these licensed psychologists will not be authorized to prescribe narcotic drugs. 

Currently, if medication is part of the patient’s care plan, the patient must meet with a doctor or psychiatrist to have the prescription issued. Few of the only 800 psychiatrists throughout Colorado accept Medicaid. Patients often struggle to find an available psychiatrist within their insurance network, forcing them to choose between large out-of-pocket costs or waiting months for the medication they need. Allowing psychologists limited prescribing authority to provide immediate access to medication can save the patient time and money.

Psychologists work closely with their patients to determine how to best address their mental health needs. When patients meet with a doctor or psychiatrist, it’s often their first time discussing their mental health issues and telehealth appointments can make it difficult to accurately assess the patient’s condition. Allowing licensed psychologists who often meet monthly or even more frequently with patients and are more familiar with their mental health condition to prescribe medication, streamlines access to effective health care and leads to more appropriate care.

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