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Psychologists Prescribing Psych Meds in Colorado — Crazy or Crafty?

By Brian C. Joondeph, M.D.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed House Bill 1071 a week ago which allows Colorado psychologists to prescribe mental health or psychiatric medications to their patients. This bill passed into law despite objections from psychiatrists, who are medical doctors.

Is this crafty, expanding the supply of much-needed mental healthcare workers? Or is this crazy, on par with hiring based on diversity rather than competence? Let’s take it apart and see.

Many people believe that psychiatrists and psychologists are more or less the same, but based on training they are not, even though they treat the same diseases and patients.

Psychiatry training includes a college degree, four years of medical school, then an additional four years of psychiatry residency training. Some psychiatrists complete an additional 1-2 years of fellowship training in such fields as child and adolescent psychiatry, addiction, forensic, or geriatric psychiatry.

Clinical psychologists, after their college degree, obtain either a master’s or doctoral degree, taking an additional 2-5 years.

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