SPRINGFIELD | Illinois psychologists could soon be picking up a pen and prescribing medication under a proposal approved by the state Senate Thursday.
The measure would allow psychologists to prescribe drugs for treating mental, emotional and psychological illnesses. It was approved on a 37-10 vote. The proposal now moves to the House.
Proponents said it would increase access to mental health care.
State Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, who sponsored the legislation, said the updated version requires a prescribing psychologist to hold a written, collaborative and contractual agreement with a physician.
Collaborating physicians are not required to give psychologists prescriptive authority under the proposal.
“This really is about solving a fundamental problem with access to mental health care, particularly in under-served communities across Illinois," Harmon said.
The measure would require psychologists to take additional training through a master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology.
Opponents said the measure means an “unsafe, unscientific and unnecessary” risk to patients.
Dr. Tim Tumlin, a clinical psychologist in Darien, a southwest Chicago suburb, said the state should be exploring other alternatives to increase access to mental health care, such as cross-training psychologists as advance practice nurses or physician assistants.
“This bill still calls for grossly insufficient training, and that’s really the crux of this,” Tumlin said. “This would be the lowest level of training for medical practitioners in the state of Illinois, if not in the country.”
New Mexico and Louisiana are the only two states that currently allow for psychologists to prescribe medication.
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R- Bloomington, who voted "no" on the measure, said he still had concerns with the training requirements in the updated proposal.
“At the end of the day, I was most concerned that the individuals who are prescribing medications have suitable training and an educational background to do that,” Barickman said.
Also voting "no" to the proposal were state Sens. Bill Brady, R- Bloomington, and Dave Luechtefeld, R- Okawville.
The legislation is Senate Bill 2187.