Advocacy in action

AOA, TOMA defend osteopathic care for Texas psychiatric patients

Coordinated response led a Harris County, Texas, judge to reverse a decision that threatened access to care.

Actions taken by the AOA and the Texas Osteopathic Medical Association (TOMA) to ensure access to care for psychiatric patients in Texas have resulted in an advocacy win for the osteopathic medical profession.

In September, TOMA officials learned that a probate judge in Harris County, Texas, directed his staff not to accept DO signatures on documents regarding treatment of mentally ill patients. This arbitrary action set off an intense coordinated response from TOMA and the AOA, which were joined by several other Texas state professional medical associations and the Texas Medical Board.

As a result, 18-year veteran judge Rory Olsen rescinded his directive on October 7, averting legal action and ending the public health crisis created by his unprecedented action. Efforts on behalf of the 5,500 DOs practicing in Texas led to coverage in the Houston Chronicle and outspoken criticism from the state’s elected officials.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton may review the matter at the request of state Sen. Charles Schwertner, MD, R-Georgetown, chairman of the health and human services committee.

“Judge Olsen doesn’t have the authority to decide which physicians he does or does not want to listen to,” wrote Dr. Schwertner. “Regardless of this man’s opinion, the law governing the practice of medicine is exceedingly clear: DOs—just like MDs—are fully trained, licensed, and accredited physicians with all the rights and responsibilities that entails. Period.”

Judge Olsen’s directive disrupted the operations of several Houston psychiatric facilities that employ DOs and interrupted the training of resident physicians.

AOA legal counsel, working on behalf of TOMA, presented multiple analyses demonstrating the illegality of Judge Olsen’s action. Supporters, including the Texas medical licensing body, along with the 50,000-member Texas Medical Association and the Harris County Medical Society and the Federation of Texas Psychiatry, provided their own legal analysis and requested the policy be retraced.

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