Prescription Privileges for Psychologists in Connecticut

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Currently, access to mental health and addiction medication is severely limited in Connecticut. Due to a shortage of psychiatry providers, people experience long wait times, and often get medications from non-mental health professionals like primary care doctors or family nurse practitioners. Additionally, our state is suffering from an opioid epidemic but only 5% of physicians, including psychiatrists, prescribe the life-saving medication, Suboxone, for opioid addiction, which cuts the overdose death rate in half. Personally, I have worked with patients who have had to wait months to see a psychiatry provider who takes their insurance. Others drive across the border to New York State to find a psychiatrist. There are simply too few psychiatry providers in Connecticut and too many of our citizens are unnecessarily dying of opioid overdoses. Psychologists can help.

Psychologists are doctoral-level trained mental health clinicians who provide psychotherapy to help people with mental health and addiction concerns (they also work as researchers, professors, and many other roles.) With the appropriate medical training, psychologists would be well suited to safely prescribe psychiatric medications to their patients who need them.

On March 25, the Public Health Committee will be holding a hearing on Connecticut SB 966: The Prescriptive Authority of Psychologists. If approved, this would allow psychologists to prescribe drugs for mental health conditions, including addictions. The training outlined in this new bill is rigorous and safe: a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychopharmacology over and above the doctoral training they already have, supervised practice, and a national board exam. Since 1997, prescribing psychologists with this training have been practicing in the Department of Defense (all branches of the military), the U.S. Public Health Service, and the Indian Health Service.  Since 2002, New Mexico, Louisiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Idaho have already approved prescriptive authority for appropriately trained psychologists.

While the majority of people with mental health concerns or addictions do not need medication, for those who do, allowing medically trained psychologists to prescribe medications in our state would greatly reduce barriers to care. Increasing access to mental health and addiction services will help people live healthier and happier lives.

Appropriately trained psychologists with the ability to prescribe medication can help address the crisis of insufficient access to comprehensive mental health and addiction care, especially with regard to the opioid overdose epidemic.

I urge your support of Connecticut SB 966 AAC: The Prescriptive Authority of Psychologists.

Thank you.