DENVER (KDVR) — Lawmakers have passed a bill allowing psychologists to prescribe mental health medications, sending the legislation to the governor’s desk.
The bill, which has bipartisan sponsorship, gained final passage in the House on Monday in a 57-5 vote.
“Colorado is experiencing a mental health crisis, and many patients across our state are waiting weeks or months for their appointment with a licensed prescriber,” bill sponsor and state Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder, said in a statement. “This bill will give prescribing authority to psychologists who receive additional training and education so Coloradans can get the mental health treatment they need, when they need it.”
Co-sponsors included Senate President Steve Fenberg and Republican lawmakers Rep. Mary Bradfield and Sen. Cleave Simpson. The bill now awaits the governor’s signature before taking effect.
Psychologists must meet standards to prescribe
Licensed Ph.D. psychologists will have to meet certain criteria before they will be able to prescribe psychotropic medication, like an additional master’s degree and clinical training. They will not be allowed to prescribe narcotic drugs.
Proponents of the bill argue it will give people better access to the medication they need, as the state only has around 800 psychiatrists, according to the House Democrats. Patients can struggle to find an in-network psychiatrist, forcing people into a struggle between waiting for affordable care or paying higher out-of-pocket costs to get care sooner.
There are four times as many psychologists than psychiatrists in Colorado.
Opponents of the measure included local psychiatric medical and pediatric associations, which raised the issue that psychologists do not undergo medical training.
Similar proposals have passed in five other states including Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico and Idaho.