Government News
DB Leaders Take Part In State Legislative Summit
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 3 page 15-15

APA district branch representatives met with state medical societies, other specialty organizations, and leaders of the American Medical Association (AMA) during the AMA’s 2004 State Legislative Strategy Conference last month in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Jeremy Lazarus, M.D., vice speaker of the AMA House of Delegates and chair of APA’s Council on Advocacy and Public Policy, said the meeting marks the second year that APA has been invited to bring its district branch representatives to the AMA’s state legislative conference.

Liability reform, drug reimportation, and managed care were among the legislative issues addressed at the meeting. But for psychiatry—as for many of the specialty organizations represented at the meeting—scope-of-practice challenges at the state level were central.

"The purpose was to make sure that district branches and their representatives are working with their state medical societies on legislative issues in general, and on psychologist prescribing in particular," Lazarus said.

At the meeting, Lazarus proposed, and AMA leaders endorsed, the idea of a national summit on scope-of-practice issues to be convened by the AMA.

After the conference in Scottsdale, APA representatives held their own strategy meeting to address continuing challenges posed by psychologist prescribing.

"It was an opportunity for all of us to exchange information about the issues that individual district branches have been facing around psychologist prescribing," said Alexander de Nesnera, M.D., treasurer and immediate past president of the New Hampshire Psychiatric Society. "We also learned what strategies have been useful in addressing that issue, what works and what doesn’t work."

De Nesnera added that attendance at the AMA conference afforded an opportunity to hear about the scope-of-practice challenges confronting a number of other specialties.

He told Psychiatric News that psychologist-prescribing legislation was defeated last year in New Hampshire, with the help of APA’s Division of Government Relations. But the issue has emerged again this year as a "study bill," requesting the legislature to study the appropriateness of psychologist prescribing.

In Maine, psychiatrists have faced challenges from psychologists because of the underserved rural areas in the state, said Edward Pontius, M.D., chair of the Maine Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Legislative and Government Affairs, who also attended the AMA conference.

Pontius told Psychiatric News that the district branch in Maine is partnering with the Maine Academy of Family Physicians to provide psychiatrists who will be available on a volunteer basis for consultation with family doctors. Telepsychiatry—the use of technology to expand psychiatric practice across distances—is also a promising answer to access problems in the state, he said.

"Psychiatry is part of the house of medicine," Pontius said. "The scope-of-practice issues facing colleagues in other specialties are our issues as well. All of us realize that our collaboration with state medical associations is crucial. We need them to be there for us, and we need to be there for them." ▪

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