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Society supports bills to fight psychiatry shortage, promote safer drug practices

The Wisconsin Medical Society has registered strong support for legislation that would create incentives for psychiatrists to practice medicine in Wisconsin. Assembly Bill (AB) 556, which also has bipartisan support, received a public hearing in the Assembly Health Committee on Wednesday. Authored by State Assembly Rep. Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, the bill would allow psychiatrists practicing in Wisconsin to claim an income tax deduction of up to $200,000 of income earned in the state for 10 years.

According to data from the state’s Department of Health Services, Wisconsin currently needs 262 additional psychiatrists to meet its growing mental and behavioral health needs. Society staff have been working closely with Rep. Tittl to provide the current health care shortage information, and with legislators on both sides of the aisle to share workforce concerns from the Society and its members.

This issue is crucial for the Society and the state, given that 1.45 million people in Wisconsin have a mental health diagnosis, and the negative economic impact resulting from the effects of those diagnoses totals $9 billion. The Society’s Mental and Behavioral Health Task force, which includes physicians from multiple specialties, has adopted a three-part agenda to address the challenges of building the workforce, increasing access to care and reducing stigma.

Support for safer drug practices, MEB Nominees

The Society also registered support during the Assembly Health Committee for AB 681, which would bar sales of products containing dextromethorphan to minors without a prescription for the drug. The bill is scheduled for a committee vote on December 20.

The State Senate Health and Human Services Committee held a hearing Tuesday on a number of Gov. Scott Walker’s nominations to various regulatory boards. The Society registered its support for five physicians nominated for appointment or reappointment to the state’s Medical Examining Board (MEB):

  • Alaa Abd-Elsayed, MD, an anesthesiologist and pain specialist
  • Padmaja Doniparthi, MD, an anesthesiologist who oversees her system’s pain management service
  • Rodney Erickson, MD, a family physician
  • David Roelke, MD, a radiologist
  • Timothy Westlake, MD, an emergency medicine physician and current vice chair of the MEB
  • Robert Zoeller, MD, a physiatrist

The MEB is comprised of 10 physicians and 3 public members, who serve staggered four-year terms.

Contact Mark Grapentine, JD, or Peter Welch in the Society’s Government Relations Department for more information.

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