Barry's Physician Assistant program helps bill become law in U.S. Virgin Islands

Barry's Physician Assistant program helps bill become law in U.S. Virgin Islands
USVI Governor de Jongh with Barry University officials Keith Moore, Claire Lokitis, Charmaine Bellot and Beverly Lanclos and Nagesh Tammara, Esq., of Legal Counsel’s Office.

Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr., of the U.S. Virgin Islands signed legislation into law on July 17, permitting physician assistants to prescribe non-narcotic medications for up to 30 days and a 72-hour supply of Schedule II-V controlled medications, for patients seen in the emergency department of a Virgin Islands government hospital.

The persistent and determined efforts of the Barry University PA inaugural class in St. Croix, local PAs and physicians, and the Barry PA team in St. Croix played a critical role in helping to get the legislation passed. Working closely together, AAPA staff, Barry PA faculty and PAs in the Virgin Islands developed a successful advocacy plan to educate the health care community, legislators and regulators about the many benefits of the physician-PA team model in providing high quality health care to patients within the territory. As a result, the new legislation will allow better access to health care for all residents of the USVI.

Among other improvements, the new law removes an on-site supervision requirement and incorporates much of the American Academy of Physician Assistants’ (AAPA) model state legislative language. With the governor's actions, PAs are authorized to prescribe in all jurisdictions where they are licensed.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded Barry’s Physician Assistant program $1.5 million in grants. Funds from this award being used to support expansion of the Barry PA program into the Virgin Islands. The university’s first PA class in St. Croix began in August, 2011.

The program's expansion into the Virgin Islands is in direct response to the health care and educational needs of those in the territory, as well as to the recommendations made in the HRSA State Health Workforce Profile for the Virgin Islands. One of the goals of the expansion was to improve the PA practice environment and utilization of PAs in all clinical settings in the territory.

“This legislation passed in the U.S. Virgin Islands can help bolster legislative efforts in other states in the United States when people see how progressive an approach the USVIs have taken to PA health care services for medically underserved populations,” said Keith Moore, JD, PA-C, associate program director for the Barry PA program.

Barry’s PA program on the main campus is located in Miami Shores, Florida and offers a Master of Clinical Medical Sciences degree and PA Certificate of Completion. Barry’s two off-site locations are at the University Partnership Center of St. Petersburg College and in St. Croix in partnership with the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital.