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House committee passes licensing bill for naturopathic doctors in Missouri

Two Republican lawmakers have proposed legislation to establish that licensing structure in Missouri — state Sen. Nick Schroer of Defiance and Rep. Doug Richey of Excelsior Springs.
Arseny Togulev
Unlike Kansas and 22 other states, Missouri does not have licensing or registration laws for naturopathic doctors, or primary care physicians with a focus on holistic care.

A bill that would allow naturopathic doctors to become licensed in Missouri passed its first hurdle Wednesday.

The House Professional Registration and Licensing Committee voted 7-2 to advance the bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Doug Richey of Excelsior Springs.

Unlike Kansas and 22 other states, Missouri does not have licensing or registration laws for naturopathic doctors, or primary care physicians with a focus on holistic care.

“As we continue to talk about the need for more access to healthcare in both rural as well as metro contexts, this is an area of medicine that is known to be effective,” Richey told The Independent in February. “There are other states that have formally recognized it as such.”

In states where the practice of naturopathic medicine is regulated, doctors are required to graduate from accredited four-year residential naturopathic medical programs and pass a postdoctoral board examination in order to receive a license or registration.

Richey’s bill was amended Wednesday to clarify that naturopathic doctors would only perform minor office procedures, similar to a primary care physician. And they would not be allowed to perform surgeries or prescribe opioids.

A Senate bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Nick Schroer of Defiance, has not yet received a public hearing.

The veterans service organization, AMVETS, sent a letter to Gov. Michael Parson on March 8 urging his support for the bill. Diana Johnson, director of AMVETS in Missouri, said licensed naturopathic doctors are a “vital addition” to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ Whole Health program to provide veterans more holistic care.

“Until we are able to license these doctors within Missouri, the veterans of our great state will continue to suffer from chronic pain and other ailments,” Johnson said, “without the full benefits of naturopathic care and the opportunity to be included in the ‘Whole Health’ program established by the V.A.”

Dr. Emily Hudson, president of the Missouri Society of Naturopathic Physicians, estimates there are currently a dozen or more naturopathic doctors working in Missouri who could be licensed under the proposed legislation’s prerequisites. And many more would return to Missouri if the bill passes.

Hudson called the committee’s approval a “significant milestone” towards offering Missouri residents access to licensed naturopathic doctors and being able to “incorporate safe, effective and naturally focused treatments” into veterans’ healthcare.

“This victory marks a collective effort towards providing comprehensive care,” Hudson said, “and honoring the well-being of those who have served our nation.”

The Missouri Independent is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering state government, politics and policy. It is staffed by veteran Missouri reporters and is dedicated to its mission of relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Jefferson City are made and their impact on individuals across the Show-Me State.
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