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2005 Testimony

Testimony Before The Senate Human Services Committee

SB 2131 - Definitions Related to Commitment Procedures

January 10, 2005

Chair Judy Lee and members of the Senate Human Services Committee, I am Rosalie Etherington, the Clinical Director of the North Dakota State Hospital of the Department of Human Services. I am here today to ask that you consider amending Section 1, Subsection 7 and 8 of section 25-03.1-01 of the North Dakota Century Code to include licensed psychologist trained in a clinical program as Expert examiner and Independent expert examiner for the evaluation of chemical dependency.

The current law defines Expert examiner and Independent expert examiner as ‘a licensed physician, psychiatrist, psychologist trained in a clinical program, or licensed addiction counselor.’ However, it limits evaluation of whether the respondent is chemically dependent to a licensed physician or licensed addiction counselor.

Substance-related disorders are encountered in both general practice and specialty practice settings. All healthcare professionals have a role in the screening, recognition and treatment of substance-related disorders. That role, however, understandably varies given particular circumstances of the case and the specificity of training and privileging of the practitioner. In general, psychologists have the special qualifications and expertise in the recognition, treatment, and prevention of substance-related disorders.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Managed Behavioral Healthcare Association, in The Guideline for Credentialing and Privileging recommends that psychologists be given the broad privilege of prevention, screening, assessment, and diagnosis of chemical dependency. Before the language of this section was changed in 1993 psychologists were allowed this privilege. In general, these duties are a routine part of a psychologist's job and the ability to testify to this in court as Expert examiners is important.

In sum, I ask that the committee consider passing Senate Bill 2131 and allow psychologists to be recognized as Expert examiners and Independent expert examiners within their full scope of education and experience, which includes the assessment and diagnosis of chemical dependency.

Thank you and I am willing to answer any questions.


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