SPRINGFIELD | A controversial proposal to give psychologists the ability to prescribe drugs advanced in the Illinois House Wednesday.
The measure, sponsored by state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, won approval in a House committee on a 9-5 vote and now heads to the full House for further debate.
Bradley says the change is an attempt to address a shortage of doctors in some parts of the state.
"That's a key point in this whole thing — greater access," Bradley said.
Supporters say psychologists would have to undergo a battery of additional educational courses in order to receive prescription authority.
Once trained, psychologists would have to work with a coordinating physician to ensure various medications don't interfere with each other.
"There's going to be a lot of training," Bradley said. "This is a really safe procedure in place."
The Illinois State Medical Society, which represents medical doctors, is opposed to the proposal.
Dr. Joan Anzia, a psychiatrist at Northwestern University, said psychologists don't have enough background in the physical needs of their patients to gauge what medicines would help them or how various medicines might interact in a patient's body.
"I have tremendous respect for the profession of psychology. But there is no medical training whatsoever. They have no required anatomy. No required physiology. Nothing," Anzia said. "This, frankly, alarms me."
There also are detractors among psychologists.
Dr. Timothy Tumlin, of Downers Grove, said many clinical psychologists view the proposal as an attempt by psychologists to increase their own business, rather than as an issue of helping patients.
"This bill is unsafe," said Tumlin, who is a psychologist. "It's about access to market share."
If the measure wins approval in the full House, it must return to the Senate for further debate.
The legislation is Senate Bill 2187.