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Nurse Prescription Bill Squeaks Through

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A bill that would let nurse practitioners prescribe controlled substances and commit patients under the Baker Act narrowly passed the Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday.

The 5-to-4 vote on SB 1352 reflected the divided emotions among the dozens of nurses, psychiatrists, physicians and others who spoke during the hearing. The comments followed many of the same arguments heard since before the legislative session began, pondering whether giving nurse practitioners more authority will help address Florida’s shortage of primary care physicians.

Sponsor Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, said some of her rural constituents have no access to a doctor, meaning the restrictions create unnecessarily delays to emergency treatment. Right now, Florida is the only state that requires advanced practice registered nurses to get a doctor’s signature for narcotic prescriptions.

Grimsley, a registered nurse, said nurse practitioners also are legally unable to identify if someone is a mental health risk to themselves and need a 72-hour involuntary hospital evaluation.

While the demand for care is significant, nurses with significantly less training should not be allowed to prescribe highly addictive substances, said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. That’s a bigger concern, especially in a state once notorious for its shady pain clinics, she said.

“They don’t have the pill mill reputation that we have. It’s been relaxed some because we have taken extreme measures,” Joyner said. “And this to me seems contrary to what we’ve done. And I just can’t bring myself at this point to support this.”

The bill must pass through the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committees before a final vote.

Health News Florida is part of WUSF Public Media. Contact Reporter Mary Shedden can at (813) 974-8636, on Twitter @MaryShedden, or email at shedden@wusf.org. For more health news, visit HealthNewsFlorida.org.