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Mental Health Patients Deserve the Same Quality of Care as Everyone Else

Thursday, Mar 13, 2014

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

In any discussion about treatment of mental illness, the interests of the patients and their families should come first. But Senate Bill 2187 – sometimes called “RxP” – would create a lower-tier health system for people with mental illness.

SB 2187 would allow psychologists who have no medical training to prescribe powerful medications to patients. Current Illinois law allows only people who have medical training – doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants – to prescribe drugs.

Why does medical training matter? Physical illnesses and mental disorders are often intertwined. Additionally, psychiatric medication, such as drugs for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, can interact negatively with medication for chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure. Finally, psychiatric drugs are powerful and can create risky side effects. To understand these intricacies, psychiatrists go through four years of medical school plus at least four years of residency. They learn to treat the whole patient – not just the brain.

Maybe that is why the pre-eminent advocacy group for patients and their families – the National Alliance on Mental Illness – opposes this legislation. In announcing its opposition to SB 2187 last year, NAMI’s Illinois chapter said that in treating mental illness, “the best medical expertise must be brought to bear.”

Psychologists who want to prescribe can follow the route taken by nurse practitioners, physician assistants and doctors. They can obtain medical training – instead of insisting on a law that would lower the standard of care. To become involved, join the Coalition for Patient Safety, http://coalitionforpatientsafety.com.

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