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Hawaii looks to allow psychologists to prescribe drugs


    In this file photo, a pharmacist fills a prescription in Pittsburgh.

State lawmakers are poised to make Hawaii one of a handful of states that allow psychologists to prescribe medication in hopes of increasing access to mental health services.

The Hawaii bill would allow psychologists to prescribe medication if they undergo special training. It sets requirements including 400 hours of training, supervision of 100 patients and passing an exam created by the American Psychological Association.

So far, psychologists in the Department of Defense can prescribe medication, along with those in New Mexico, Louisiana and Illinois. Just this week, lawmakers in Iowa approved a similar bill. Supporters of the Hawaii bill say those states can serve as a model for increasing access to mental health care.

Outreach workers say Hawaii is in the midst of a mental health crisis. More Hawaii residents die by suicide than in car accidents, according to the Hawaii Department of Health. There’s long been a lack of mental health treatment options for teens, while mentally-ill adults face similar problems with overcrowding at the state’s psychiatric hospital.

The Hawaii Medical Service Association and the Hawaii Association of Professional Nurses were among organizations supporting the bill, saying it could fill a gap in services for those who live in rural areas of the state.

“The mental health needs of individuals across our state continue to outweigh the capacity of our mental health system,” said Jill Oliveira Gray, a clinical psychologist who has practiced in rural Hana, Maui and Molokai.

The psychiatrists in rural areas are severely overbooked and unable to provide patients the attention they need, Gray said.

But opponents including the American Psychiatric Association and the Hawaii Medical Association say the bill would put Hawaii residents with mental illness at serious risk. They say some psychologists might not have the proper medical training needed to safely prescribe drugs that can cause deadly reactions, especially when mixed with other medications.

Depending on the school and degree program, some people may not be qualified to prescribe potentially harmful medication, especially if their courses were predominantly taught online, Rep. Richard Creagan said. The bill also doesn’t ensure that psychologists will practice in rural areas, he added.

“If they follow the money, as their colleagues expect, they will go to where the money is — and that is not in the rural areas,” Creagan said.

Saul Levin, medical director American Psychiatric Association, opposed the bill, saying psychologists would be required to take an exam created by the same organization that accredits “haphazard” degree programs.

“These dangerously low and inadequate requirements must be taken into consideration,” Levin said. “And any proposed training standards must be compared to the 12 or more years of medical education and training psychiatrists and other physicians receive to be able to safely care for any patient.”

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  • OH BOY! HERE WE GO!! “BIGPHARMA” seeks to broaden it’s reach in “DUMBING DOWN” AND “CONTROLLING THE MASSES” (this way, when Local Government comes to extract your individual body-parts–you won’t feel anything..) YIPPEE! Dr. Strangelove, Dr. Frankenstein, et al..(?). I’m sure the LEGISLATORS will make us swallow this pill as well. (If “ILLEGALS” can LEGALLY “RIOT” IN THE STREETS–WHY NOT LEGAL NAVITVE-BORN U.S. CITIZENS?)

    • ..where’s my Thorazine, ​Haidol, Orap, Stelazine, Dolmatil?​ (maybe more humane and easier for Government to just THROW a MILLION GALLONS OF LITHIUM IN OUR DRINKING-WATER SUPPLY(?))

  • The required medical training of one year full time online is grossly substandard. I am a psychologist and know for a fact that we have no premedical or medical training to prepare us to practice medicine. About 90% of surveyed psychologists state that the training requirement to prescribe should be at least the same as that required for other non-physician prescribers. Instead, this bill requires at most 20% of the medical training completed by nurse practitioners. Psychologists have no secret special knowledge that permits them to learn medicine in one year.

    • How many people in Hawaii who undergo psychological counseling must have medication? It was in the news the over prescription of Oxycontin is creating a new generation of “legal” drug addicts. Why would Hawaii make it even easier to get more people hooked on drugs? Why can’t psychological counseling be the main treatment and the LAST resort is medication? There are incredible REWARDS for doctors by drug companies to over prescribe their drugs and psychologist are no different. How ironic that Prince’s death was probably the result of overdose or bad combination of prescription pain medication. There is a nationwide drug problem in the US from over prescribing drugs and Hawaii wants to take the lead of getting more Hawaii residents addicted to prescription medication and the negative fall out as a consequence.

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