SB 2187 creates a new license in Illinois for prescribing psychologists that will enable licensed clinical psychologists with additional specialized training in psychopharmacology to prescribe psychotropic medications for their patients when needed.
This measure represents one important step the state can take to increase the availability of mental health professionals who can provide comprehensive treatment for those who struggle with mental illness.
There is a tremendous need for mental health specialists who can prescribe. In 2007 there were 46 counties in Illinois without a psychiatrist. Since 2007, the overall number of psychiatrists has declined, further reducing access to mental health care professionals who can prescribe. Between 2007 and 2012 the number of licensed psychiatrists declined from 1,635 to 1,287 in Illinois.
One logical means for expanding the number of prescribing mental health professionals is to allow specially trained psychologists to prescribe. Of the 46 counties without a psychiatrist in 2007, 13 had a practicing licensed psychologist. The number of licensed psychologists in Illinois has increased by about 500 since 2007 to around 4,900. Allowing those with specialized training to prescribe in Illinois would help to counter the decreasing number of practicing psychiatrists.
Licensing psychologists to prescribe would help alleviate the shortage of prescribing mental health providers, but it only makes sense if the training for psychologists is rigorous, comprehensive, and results in safe prescribing for their patients. This proposal would ensure that all of those requirements would be met.
Prescribing psychologists undergo thorough training and are practicing safely in other states and in the U.S. military. This legislation builds on that track record and carefully sets forth the requirements that prescribing psychologists must meet before they can be licensed in Illinois:
- Completion of a doctoral program in psychology
- Possession of a valid license to practice psychology in Illinois
- Completion of a master's degree in psychopharmacology from an accredited institution. Including instruction in anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, neurosciences, pharmacology, psychopharmacology, clinical medicine or pathophysiology and health assessment
- 80 hours of supervised training in clinical assessment and pathophysiology and an additional supervised practicum of at least 400 hours treating no fewer than 100 patients with mental disorders.
Both clinical training and practicum experiences must be supervised by an appropriately trained physician or prescribing psychologist. A portion of this supervised clinical experience must take place
in one or more of the following settings:
- Correctional facilities
- Federally Qualified Health Clinics (FQHCs)
- Community agencies that serve the seriously mentally ill
- All state and federal institutions that serve the seriously mentally ill
- Completion of a national certifying exam
Cuts in State Mental Health Budgets Affect Low-Income Patients the Most
By Toi Wiliams, Health AIM
States have often eyed public mental health programs for cuts as they have struggled to balance their budgets. Those cuts have hit low-income people with severe mental health disorders or addiction issues particularly hard. The reductions have led to less money to help these people get housing and jobs, longer waiting lists for care, and more people visiting emergency rooms for psychiatric care.