Nurse practitioners seek more authority

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida is one of only two states banning nurse practitioners from writing prescriptions for powerful drugs.

The skilled nurses are also blocked from running emergency mental health checks on patients they think are homicidal.

Florida nurse practitioners are now walking the state Capitol, warning lawmakers of an impending problem.

On Tuesday, they visited Rep. Daphne Campbell. The Miami Democrat sponsored a bill to allow them to perform emergency mental health checks on potentially dangerous patients.

"The patient says, 'I want to commit suicide or homicide.' You call the police. By the time police arrive, that patient could kill themselves or kill the nurse," Campbell said.

The nurses also want the authority to write prescriptions for controlled substances.

"The problem is, we are not allowed to obtain a (Drug Enforcement Administration) license in Florida," said Susan Lynch, of the Florida Association of Nurse Practitioners.

"The vast majority of the meds that I'm restricted from prescribing, which by my training I am trained to prescribe, I can't do," nurse practitioner Patricia Wahrenberger said.

"The medications that are under the DEA-controlled licensure would be things like testosterone for hormonal problems, cough medicine like codeine," Lynch said.

Florida and Alabama are the only states in the union that don't allow nurse practitioners to write prescriptions for controlled substances. Nurses rally in Tallahassee year after year to change the law. This year could be different.

The nurses say the aging baby-boomer population and the insurance requirements under "Obamacare" will increase demand.

"We have a physician shortage," Lynch said.

They say the best way to meet the demand is to give them more authority.

Florida TaxWatch and other fiscal groups support the changes. They say the state, hospitals and patients could save millions.

Legislative leaders remain skeptical. Senate President Don Gaetz says the best way to fix the demand problem is to stop frivolous medical lawsuits so more doctors will want to work in Florida.

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