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Government News
N.H. Psychologists Lose Fight For Prescribing Privileges
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 6 page 5-5

Thanks in large part to lobbying and organizing efforts by the New Hampshire Psychiatric Society, lawmakers in the state legislature decided to end for this session the psychologists’ quest to gain the right to prescribe psychoactive drugs.

Last March New Hampshire psychologists succeeded in having their legislative allies introduce a bill to grant them prescribing privileges, but it was defeated on the floor by a voice vote.

The most recent attempt to use the legislative route to win prescribing privileges came in the form of a bill that would have mandated a study of the issue. Study bills can be harder to defeat than other types of legislation because many lawmakers are reluctant to sink a proposal that just calls for a controversial issue to be studied. In this case, the content of the study bill (HB 1265) was not much different from last year’s bill to grant psychologists prescribing privileges. It called for study instead of enactment.

The switch to a study bill for the most current iteration of the psychologist-prescribing proposal arose after one legislator, John DeJoie, "said he didn’t feel that the process [of evaluating a psychologist-prescribing bill] was done correctly last year, so after meeting with psychologists, he decided to introduce a study bill," explained Alex de Nesnera, M.D.

De Nesnera is treasurer of the New Hampshire Psychiatric Society and led the district branch’s effort to head off this proposal in the state legislature.

DeJoie said that he hoped that psychologists and psychiatrists could come to some agreement if the proposal was just to study the psychologist-prescribing issue. New Hampshire psychiatrists insisted that with the quality of patient care at stake, the issue was clear cut and not open for negotiation, de Nesnera pointed out. "We also stressed that in 2003 the full House clearly agreed with our view" that allowing psychologists to prescribe was a dangerous idea.

The New Hampshire Psychiatric Society arranged for representatives of the New Hampshire Medical Society, state organizations of family physicians and pediatricians, and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill to testify against the bill during a committee hearing on January 14.

The committee responsible for reviewing the bill to study the issue voted 15 to 2 to send it to the House floor with a negative recommendation. Several weeks later, the full House voted 266 to 68 to accept the committee’s negative recommendation.

De Nesnera expects that a psychologist-prescribing bill will reappear in some form in the next legislative session, and the battle will have to be fought all over again. ▪

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