The Iowa Senate has voted to allow a new group of medical professionals prescribe medications for mentally ill Iowans.
“I think the legislation is going to definitely improve access to mental health services, especially in places that currently have workforce shortages,” says Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City who’s been working on the bill.
Under current law, psychiatrists can write prescriptions, but there are only 150 psychiatrists in the state and the majority of them live in urban areas. If the bill becomes law, the nearly 500 licensed psychologists in Iowa could write prescriptions, too.
“With the growing mental health care needs of Iowans, we need to find ways to safely increase the number of mental health professionals that can provide specialized care to Iowans needing mental health services,” Bolkcom says.
Psychiatrists go to medical school and are licensed medical doctors who are able to write prescriptions. Psychologists get a doctorate degree from a college after studying human behavior and how the mind works. The bill calls for new training for psychologists before they’d be able to prescribe any of 100 different drugs for treatment of mental illnesses.
The bill failed to pass the Senate March 1, but changes were made in the legislation today (Wednesday) and the bill picked up enough to clear the Senate on a 28 to 22 vote. It now goes to the House for consideration. The Iowa Psychiatrists Association opposes the bill. The group argues there’s not enough training required for psychologists to be able to “safely prescribe” powerful medications for mentally ill Iowans.