In Brief

After two years in development, the New Mexico regulations governing psychologist prescriptive authority are nearly complete. The law that gave properly trained psychologists the power to prescribe was passed in 2002, but the law's implementation has been slower than some expected. However, recent developments indicate that New Mexico's psychopharmacology graduates may soon be able to take steps toward prescription privileges (RxP) certification.

Specifically, the proposed regulations--developed by a joint committee of physicians and psychologists--passed through the New Mexico attorney general's office in May, where the rules were reviewed to ensure that they were consistent with the original statute. That office made some changes and then sent a review version of the regulations back to the committee, which consists of members from both the Board of Psychology Examiners (BPE) and the New Mexico Medical Board.

At Monitor press time, the committee had approved the new rules, and the state was planning a 30-day public comment period for some time this summer. After that, a public hearing--slated for late summer--will be held.

Finally, following a committee review of any public comments, the regulations can be implemented and trained psychologists can "go forward and start meeting the needs in the state," says Elaine LeVine, PhD, director of the psychopharmacology training program offered jointly by the Southwestern Institute for the Advancement of Psychotherapy and New Mexico State University.

"It's taken a long time for us to get this up and running," says LeVine, who spearheaded New Mexico's RxP legislation. "But the positive is the BPE and the Medical Board did agree on procedures."

The process may not have been speedy, adds Thomas Sims, PhD, a member of the joint committee and chair of BPE, but the length to implementation is understandable given the regulatory complications involved. "It's unusual for boards to do regulations together," he says.

The fact that the medical board did agree to send the proposed regulations out for public comment is impressive, given the fierce opposition from organized psychiatry, notes Michael Sullivan, PhD, assistant executive director of state advocacy in APA's Practice Directorate.

He and other observers are optimistic that, barring any major issues during the public hearing, New Mexico will officially certify trained psychologists to prescribe.

"This is the nitty gritty we had to get past," says LeVine. "Now we can get on to the more forward-looking interdisciplinary care at the primary level."

--J. DAW HOLLOWAY