Illinois is in a mental health crisis, according to leaders of two trade groups of medical professionals. Only one of them says the solution is to let psychologists write prescriptions. The group lobbying state lawmakers to extend prescription-writing authority says the ramifications of the Affordable Care Act will increase the state’s mentally ill population by one third.

“We’re going to have another 235,000 Illinois citizens who are going to be suffering from a mental illness, and we have a critical shortage of mental health providers and prescribers,” says Beth Rom-Rymer, a Chicago psychologist who is president-elect of the Illinois Psychological Association.

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Rom-Rymer says hundreds of hours of classwork and observation would be required, under her group’s proposal.

New Mexico and Louisiana allow psychologists to write prescriptions. “They are not Illinois,” says the Illinois State Medical Society president, Dr. William Werner. “With the use of technology in Illinois … using telemedicine, they can access a psychiatrist …and get that psychiatrist’s diagnosis and opinion. There are alternatives to this crisis besides giving prescribing authority to a psychologist.”

Werner agrees with Rom-Rymer that a mental health crisis exists. Werner blames the state’s declining funding of mental health services.

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