Current Colorado law requires psychologists to refer patients who need medications to a medical doctor or psychiatrist. However, prescriber shortages prompted legislators to propose changes to this process.
Proposed legislation could increase the prescriptive authority of psychologists in the state.
What the legislation does
If House Bill 1071 passes, licensed psychologists in Colorado can apply to prescribe medications to patients. To qualify, psychologists must obtain a master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology, complete 750 hours of prescribing practice under the supervision of a clinician, pass a national psychopharmacology exam and get approval from the state boards of psychology and medicine. Additionally, they must complete 40 hours of continuing education in psychopharmacology every two years.
Arguments for and against the bill
Advocates for the bill say it is necessary to address the shortage of licensed psychiatrists in the state. There are currently over 3,000 licensed psychologists, but only 600 licensed psychiatrists in Colorado. As a result, some patients must wait for weeks to get an appointment with a psychiatrist. Additionally, patients must pay two separate bills.
Opponents of the bill say it does not require the same level of education and training that medical doctors, nurse practitioners and psychiatrists must have to prescribe medications. They fear this will lead to professionals who do not fully understand how medications affect the body or the link between physical and mental health improperly prescribing medications.
While the legislation could increase access to care for patients, it could also increase the risk for prescribers and raise safety concerns for patients.