A pill of a bill

    Psychiatric doctors all across Wisconsin have begun to sound the alarm along the watch towers of the medical industry.
    The Wisconsin Psychiatric Association (WPA) is sounding off a warning to the public calling attention to an effort by psychologists seeking to pass Senate Bill 180 (SB180). The bill, according to WPA, authorizes the Wisconsin Psychology Examining Board in the Department of Regulation and Licensing to issue a certificate of “prescriptive authority” to a licensed psychologist who has completed educational requirements and supervised practice established by the board.
    “Prescriptive authority” is defined to mean authority to prescribe, distribute, and administer drugs to treat disorders identified within the practice of psychology. Psychiatrists, who go to medical school and train for years to become medical doctors, are labeling SB180 as dangerous. They say that allowing psychologists, who have no medical training, to prescribe psychiatric medications opens a Pandora’s Box to medical complications and safety concerns.
    Psychiatric medicines are one of the most complex in medical treatment and carry many side effects. All physicians do extensive training in physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, and years of clinical hospital and outpatient clerkships to learn how to prescribe and manage medications. In addition, psychiatrists must do 4 to 5 more years of clinical training on top of their already rigorous medical training to specifically learn and apply medications pertaining to mental illness. According to Dr. Selahattin Kurter, M.D., Board Certified psychiatrist and one of a few doctors in Wisconsin who practices addiction medicine, “8 to 9 years of medical training is needed before one is ready to competently dispense medications associated with mental health. We can’t expect a psychologist to take a course and learn the complexity of the human body now that the law allows him or her to do so. I have personally seen patients die due to complications of psychiatric medications. This was not due to physician error but to potential side effects that are inherent to these medications.”
    Dr. Kurter points out that a physician and or nurse practitioner are the only people trained to manage these medications so that the risk to patients and the general public can be minimized. “Psychiatrists are experts in mental health medications for a reason–they have been trained to do so," Kurter said. "Many family physicians and internists will defer to psychiatrists for psychiatric medication management due to complexity and potential medication interactions. Milwaukee has had several fatalities and overdoses on psychiatric medications in the past several months. In most situations, the patients used the medications inappropriately. But it underscores that these medications are powerful and potentially deadly if prescribed in error or by someone not competent to prescribe them.”
    The WPA believes that the passage of this bill will set up a substandard and dangerous care system for the mentally ill. Dr. Kurter says that most other states in the U.S. have rejected psychologists from prescribing medication for the mentally ill because of safety concerns.
    I say, let’s support WPA’s call to have the state reject SB180. The increase in the amount of financial and medical liability to allow psychologists to prescribe medication for the mentally ill would be a hard pill to swallow for all Wisconsin taxpayers.

    Robert Miranda is a Latino community activist, editor-in-chief of the Milwaukee Spanish Journal and executive director of Esperanza Unida Inc. in Milwaukee.

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