Bill Allows Psychologists to Write Prescriptions

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa became the fourth state Wednesday to clear the way to allow psychologists to write prescriptions.

"We've just approved a bill allowing psychologists with the proper training, rigorous training, to prescribe about 100 psychotropic drugs," said Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D).

Right now, only medical doctors or psychiatrists can prescribe medication for mental health patients. Lawmakers supporting the measure say allowing trained psychologists to write prescriptions will improve the state's access to mental health care.

"We are not proposing any prescribing any narcotics or any kinds of medication outside the scope of Psychology and Psychological disorders," explained psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Lonning.

Lonning, of Davenport, is only three psychologists in Iowa with the necessary resume to write prescriptions. The bill requires a PhD in Psychology, a Masters in Pharmacology, and supervision by a psychiatrist or physician.

"Prescribing medication is the practice of medicine and to practice medicine, you need to have the requisite training in the biomedical science," said psychiatrist Dr. Joyce Vista-Wayne.

Vista-Wayne is president of the Iowa Psychiatric Society. She says medications used to treat mental health issues are very effective but come with side effects that can affect physical health.

"When does it become dangerous? It becomes dangerous when you don't know what you don't know," she said.

"We do believe this is a safe and effective addition to providing care for people," said Lonning.

The Iowa House passed the bill yesterday. The Senate followed suit today. The measure now heads to the governor's desk.