Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Family Physicians Take Up the Fight. (Psychologist Prescribing)

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Family Physicians Take Up the Fight. (Psychologist Prescribing)

Article excerpt

In the wake of last spring's historic decision by New Mexico to allow psychologists to prescribe psychotropic drugs, psychiatrists have a new ally in their fight against such laws--family physicians.

At its October meeting, the American Academy of Family Physicians' Congress of Delegates endorsed a resolution to help study the effects of the recently passed New Mexico law and to prepare for efforts on the issue in other states. The AAFP is still in the process of designing the study, said Dawn Zimmer, AAFP spokeswoman.

The New Mexico law was signed by New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson on March 6 after a pitched 2-year battle in the state legislature. The legislation's passage marks the first time that a state has allowed psychologists to prescribe medications. Psychiatrists, who were stunned by the passage of the law, hope their renewed ally will help them in other states. The American Medical Association has long opposed such legislation, but the AAFP has not taken a formal stand against psychologists' prescribing privileges. Family physicians said the October resolution amounts to no less than a call to arms. "Our biggest concern is that this represents a fragmentation of care from primary care doctors," said Dr. Melissa Martinez, president of the New Mexico Academy of Family Physicians.

Psychologists won the public policy battle in New Mexico by arguing that psychologists would help to broaden care to critically underserved areas of the state.

"Mental health services in New Mexico, particularly psychiatric services, are beyond a crisis mode, and becoming more and more dangerously inadequate," wrote E. Mario Marquez, Ph.D., legislative chair of the New Mexico Psychological Association, in a February letter to the governor. "It is in the best interest of New Mexicans for trained psychologists to obtain prescriptive privileges," Dr. Marquez wrote, adding that psychologists were more geographically distributed in the state.

Family physicians stand alongside their psychiatrist colleagues in questioning that assertion. "The role of the psychologist who can prescribe is touted to enhance access to mental health care in underserved areas," Dr. Richard Madden Jr., an AAFP delegate from New Mexico, told the congress in October. Whether this will occur is unknown."

The AAFP hasn't "come out against the bill fully, but this resolution comes pretty close to it," said Ina Bawaya, chapter executive of the NMAFP. Family doctors assisted in challenging the law on the ground in New Mexico. Locally the NMAFP partnered with New Mexico psychiatrists to run a full-page ad in the Albuquerque Journal calling on Gov. …

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