TRENTON – New Jersey psychologists say they should have the ability to better treat their patients.
The Assembly Regulated Professions Committee spent nearly four hours discussing bill A2419, which relates to psychologists and the ability to prescribe medication.
Lawmakers heard from medical professionals speaking for and against the legislation, which would give certified psychologists authority to write prescriptions for medication. Such authority is currently reserved for physicians and dentists. The committee did not vote today.
Psychologists would be required to undergo additional training to be certified by the State Board of Psychological Examiners. The training would be in addition to the psychologist’s regular graduate and postgraduate studies, according to the legislation.
“(It) would improve access to care,” said Dr. Sean Evers, a practicing psychologist who testified in support of the legislation on behalf of the New Jersey Academy of Medical Psychologists.
Evers said 75 percent of people being treated for mental disorders in the state are treated by family care physicians. He argued psychologists are better trained to administer the proper treatment.
Both a professor of psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University and a representative for the New Jersey Psychological Association also spoke in favor of the bill’s release from the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee.
However, a host of physician groups and associations either spoke against the legislation or delivered written testimony opposing the bill’s release, arguing that adding a new class of prescribers is counterproductive to overall patient health.
Dr. Mary Campagnolo, of the Medical Society of New Jersey, argued a point that would be repeated several times by opponents to the bill, which is that, mental health aside, psychologists are not properly trained to administer medicine that could affect the overall health of a patient.
“When we’re looking at a patient’s medication we’re looking at their blood pressure medication … as well as their medication for mental health,” said Campagnolo, arguing psychologists may not be aware of how a certain prescription may react with other medication, for example.
“We’re not just looking at how (prescription drugs) affect the mind specifically, but (also) how it affects the heart (and) how it affects the bladder,” she said.
The New Jersey Psychiatric Association and the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians also opposed the bill.
The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, (D-18), South Plainfield, said he was surprised to learn psychologists were barred from writing prescriptions, saying “it’s a part of treatment.”
Diegnan said many New Jersey residents, especially teenagers, suffer without proper medication.
He sponsored similar legislation last year.
An identical bill, S137, is being sponsored by Sen. Ronald Rice, (D-28), Newark, in the upper chamber.