Prescribing Psychologists

The RxP Difference: Answering the Crisis in Mental Health Care

Bottle with Pills in Lid

The Issue: Funding struggles and cuts, doctor shortages, and inadequate care options have created a very real, very dangerous mental health care crisis in Illinois.

• With resources stretched to the limit, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals are in short supply and the demand far exceeds the capabilities of the existing network. Mental health hospitals and community centers are in dire straits, as state funding has dropped dramatically.

• More than 50 Illinois counties have no inpatient psychiatric services in their hospitals. Another 24 counties have no hospitals at all. Yet, 614,000 Illinoisans need treatment right now for serious mental illness. The unmet need is greatest with people who need help the most: low-income, rural, and minority populations whose needs are often underserved.

• As more people have been placed on Medicaid as a result of federal health care reform and states continue to struggle to cover the cost of Medicaid, the problem will only worsen.

• The pain is widespread and growing. When people do not receive the mental health care they need, they end up in hospitals or jails – driving up those costs dramatically and further crunching our tax dollars.

• Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says his jail has become the state’s largest mental health care provider. Yet, for people with serious mental illness who need appropriate psychotherapeutic and pharmacotherapeutic care, the County jail cannot meet their needs.

There is a better way. RxP provides a meaningful answer to this problem by demonstrating that comprehensive care can be provided by psychologists. Giving prescriptive authority to specialty trained and experienced psychologists will help the mentally ill live better lives; will save money for the public municipalities; and will make our communities safer, since the mentally ill, who are treated, will be less likely to engage in criminal behaviors.

How It Works: The RxP Difference puts in place a much-needed safety net by:

• Improving access to care and allowing freedom of choice for Illinoisans who are stymied by mental health challenges

• Promoting effective, comprehensive, timely patient treatment

• Easing the enormous pressure on the system with licensed, superbly trained psychologists who do collaborative work with their patients

Why It Works: The RxP Difference does not replace the good work done by psychiatrists and hospitals and community centers. It builds on that foundation and takes Illinois’ mental health care to the next level.

• Prescribing psychologists work collaboratively with their patients as well as with all of the other healthcare providers in the community. Prescribing psychologists understand the importance of conducting a thorough review of a patient’s history and symptom presentation. If they determine that a medication may be appropriate for treatment, they will prescribe that medication but often recommend a combination of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy. More people are able to get the care they need. With mental illness disproportionately affecting Medicaid patients, physicians and hospitals desperately need the help. Prescribing psychologists are the answer.

• The RxP Difference has been an unequivocal success in New Mexico and Louisiana where psychologists are prescribing, and now in Illinois. Overwhelmingly, primary care physicians report work with prescribing psychologists to be of great benefit to them. Civilian psychologists have written hundreds of thousands of prescriptions since 2005 with only 2 lawsuits ending in an indemnity payment.

Prescribing psychologists are dedicated to the highest professional standards. They spend four times as many didactic hours on the study of clinical psychopharmacology than primary care physicians. In many states, psychologists, who have specialized in clinical psychopharmacology, train family practice medical residents. The prescriptive authority of psychologists is limited to the medications that treat mental illnesses and behavioral disorders. The history of prescribing psychologists is that they prescribe 60 – 70% fewer medications than other health prescribers. Moreover, they are more likely than other health prescribers to “unprescribe” medications because they are aware of behavioral therapeutic strategies that can be more effective than medications, thus reducing side effect complications.

The mental health care crisis impact is staggering: 60 million people nationwide with a diagnosable mental disorder each year and estimated annual economic costs of more than $315 billion.

The RxP Difference responds to the call for help by providing timely, effective, and comprehensive treatment that gives people greater opportunity for recovery and hope.

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