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February 8, 2023

House Advances Bill to Streamline Mental Health Treatment

DENVER, CO - The House today advanced a bill on a preliminary vote allowing psychologists to prescribe limited mental health medications after receiving additional education and training.

“If medication is part of a mental health treatment plan, patients often wait months or pay large out-of-pocket costs to find a licensed prescriber to write their prescription,” said Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder. “This bill will improve access to the medication patients need by creating a path for psychologists to prescribe mental health treatment. Psychologists have a close relationship with their patients and a thorough understanding of how to treat mental illness, offering them important insight when it comes to the appropriate treatment.”

HB23-1071 establishes rigorous standards and education requirements that a psychologist must undertake before being able to prescribe medication to treat mental health illnesses. 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. 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 condition to prescribe medication, streamlines access to effective health care and leads to more appropriate care.

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