Recently, a reader's letter endorsed Senate Bill 2187, which would grant psychologists prescription privileges in Illinois. It should be noted that there is considerable opposition to this idea, including from many psychologists who founded Psychologists Opposed to Prescription Privileges for Psychologists, a grass-roots organization to fight similar measures. More than 169 bills have been introduced nationwide since 1995 for psychologists to prescribe medications, and all but two have been defeated.
SB 2187 is a dangerous proposal that would allow psychologists to practice medicine simply by taking online courses in psychopharmacology and seeing 100 patients under the supervision of another psychologist. In addition, oversight of these "prescribing" psychologists would be by the Illinois psychology board rather than medical boards.
It is just unsafe! Physician Assistant or Advanced Practice Nursing programs are legitimate ways to obtain prescribing privileges in Illinois. These medically based programs give graduates a broad understanding of the human body and disease. Furthermore, physician assistants and advance practice nurses prescribe under a collaborative agreement with a physician. SB 2187 does not create a similar model; instead it has a weak reporting requirement that simply requires the psychologist to inform the "collaborating physician" of the medications prescribed. Even if a physician with far greater medical experience believes that the medication could cause problems for the patient, the psychologist is not required to change the prescription.
Psychiatrists would welcome trained providers to help people with mental illness obtain medications, but SB 2187 is not a safe way to do it. Ask yourself, if you or a loved one had a serious mental illness, would you want someone who has no medical background prescribing medications? The Illinois General Assembly should not play politics with safe medicine. SB 2187 is dangerous to patients and I urge all lawmakers in Springfield to reject it.
Daniel Yohanna, M.D.
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