Former Louisiana Psychological Association president Glenn A. Ally, PhD, knows the trials and tribulations of getting legislation passed to authorize prescriptive authority for trained psychologists: He and his colleagues waged a 10-year battle for such legislation in his home state.

"We were fired up about the cause," Ally says about his fellow Louisiana psychologists' successful efforts to gain prescription privileges. "The process was filled with tremendous ups and downs. To endure, we needed a core group of people who were committed through the struggles and successes."

In fact, that core group, Ally says, is what saw the legislation through from inception to passage.

Ally will detail the group's efforts at a town hall plenary session on Friday, Aug. 19 at 10 a.m. during APA's 2005 Annual Convention in Washington, D.C. The session, chaired by Ally, will feature discussion about the nuts and bolts of successful--and unsuccessful--organizational and legislative strategies to secure prescriptive authority for psychologists. Participants will be E. Mario Marquez, PhD, an Albuquerque, N.M., clinical psychologist and legislative chair of the New Mexico Psychological Association who was instrumental in the passage of the state's law, and Elaine Orabona Mantell, PhD, a prescribing psychologist, who along with Ally, is a member of APA's Committee for the Advancement of Professional Psychology (CAPP). She will describe the committee's involvement in the effort.

"The participants and I are basic resources," Ally says. "We can provide models for how it worked in Louisiana and New Mexico and can offer guidance as to how it could work in other states."

For his part, Marquez will urge psychologists to prepare for an arduous battle that may require compromises.

"The bill we went in with was not the same bill that got passed," he says. "But we got it done by adding additional training and practicum requirements."

And Mantell promises to inform psychologists interested in promoting prescriptive authority of the role that CAPP can play in the efforts of their state, territorial and provincial associations interested in pursuing prescriptive authority legislation. She will describe how CAPP has served as an important resource for state associations and continues to provide financial support to those associations' efforts.

"Both CAPP and the Practice Directorate can serve everyone from the early-career psychologist who is wondering who to contact to obtain historical information and how to inspire support among those who are ambivalent, to the recent prescriptive authority graduate who might be interested in reviewing APA's model legislation and how to promote fund-raising activities, all the way through to those who wish to work with their legislatures but have no experience working with lobbyists and working politically," she says. CAPP has been a major supporter of state psychological association prescriptive efforts throughout the years, she added.

Opening up discussion

Ally decided on a town hall format for the session to enable broad interaction and discussion among panelists and the audience. He hopes psychologist attendees will network with others involved in the prescriptive authority effort in their own states and beyond.

"It's important for the states to act as resources for others," Ally says. "There is a wealth of information being generated in other states, but often we don't know the questions to ask. Having others in a similar situation makes the process easier to handle."

Basic lessons

Ultimately, Ally wants attendees to leave the session with an understanding of three basic strategies developed in Louisiana that he believes can be used as a model in other states:

  • Louisiana psychologists established a diverse statewide consumer advocacy group made up of families and individuals with an interest in the cause. The group's members got in touch with their legislators and spoke with them about their reasons for supporting prescriptive authority for psychologists.

  • Advocacy is not simply one call to a legislator, Ally says. For 10 years Louisiana psychologists developed relationships and networked with their legislators.

  • Psychologists gave legislators in each Louisiana district a PowerPoint presentation outlining basic prescriptive authority issues, including a comparison of the training hours and other qualifications of medical psychologists and other nonphysician prescribers.

"There's no doubt in my mind that other states can get [prescriptive authority legislation] passed," says Ally. "But it's contingent on several factors, not the least of which is a strong commitment."

While Ally worked in a core group with fellow psychologists including John Bolter, PhD, and James Quillin, PhD, past-president of the Louisiana Academy of Medical Psychologists, he emphasizes that in addition to the core group, it's important at times to draw others into the cause.

The people at APA's CAPP and Practice Directorate were vital, Ally says.

"We couldn't have done it on our own," he says.

Further Reading

For more information about the New Mexico prescriptive effort visit www.nmpa.com. Information about the Louisiana prescriptive effort can be found at www.louisianapsychologist.org. Prescriptive authority information is also available to members who pay the practice assessment to the APA Practice Organization under "Legislative & Legal Advocacy."