When historians write the story of psychologists' fight for the right to prescribe medications, they could very well see the turn of the century as a moment when things rapidly shifted into a higher gear.

The political battle has advanced to the stage that next year or any future year could see the first state grant that privilege, lending the issue more visibility. At the same time, says Ron Fox, PhD, chair of APA's Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP), the association and state psychological associations are completing key parts of an infrastructure to sustain a long-term battle for laws in every state in the union.

"We see a big increase in interest in this area. We see that it's moving along very rapidly," Fox reported during one of the several sessions of the President Pat DeLeon's, PhD, JD, Presidential Miniconvention on Prescription Privileges at APA's 2000 Annual Convention. "We have very sophisticated and good legislative efforts now in a number of states. We have others that are in development that I think will be...ready to introduce legislation within this next calendar year."

Up to this point, 10 states have proposed legislation, according to APA's Practice Directorate. Georgia, Louisiana and California appear to be the closest in securing prescription privileges. (See article above).

On the national level, Fox noted, in just the last year:

  • APA's College of Professional Psychology has developed an exam to test the psychologist-graduates of the growing numbers of psychopharmacology training programs.

  • The association has established a new division, Div. 55 (American Society for the Advancement of Pharmacotherapy) to provide a forum for members interested in the issue.

  • Over the last year, APA's Practice Directorate has dedicated a full-time staff person--Rochelle Jennings--to covering prescription privileges issues.

  • APA has engaged a consulting firm to help with ongoing membership contribution efforts, which Fox said could result in significant resources.

But, he indicated, one of the most significant landmarks for the movement this year was APA's establishment of a 501 (c)(6) companion organization that enables psychology to do more lobbying and political advocacy on behalf of its practitioner members. (APA, designated as a 501 (c)(3) by the Internal Revenue Service, is limited in the amount of money it can spend on professional advocacy.)

"It may be one of the most important steps that's been taken for the development of our profession by APA," Fox said, "and it certainly will have a big impact on this particular effort."

This year's initiatives, Fox reminded the audience, are integrated into efforts that have been ongoing for years, including meetings and site visits to state psychological associations to discuss prescription privilege efforts, extensive APA staff time dedicated to pursuing the agenda, CAPP grants to state associations to support legislative and education work, technical support to the states, data analysis including surveys on geographic density of psychologist and psychiatrists and dissemination of information.

Speaking of the ultimate goal of prescriptive authority in every state for psychologists who want it and who meet the educational and experience criteria, Fox said, "We're not going to try to do it. We're going to do it: big difference. That means we're in this over the long haul. We are going to be persistent."