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State to start licensing naturopaths in 2004

October 06, 2003|Jane E. Allen | Times Staff Writer

California has joined the growing number of states that license naturopaths, allowing them to offer an expanded array of medical services and be reimbursed for offering primary care.

Under a law to take effect Jan. 1, licensed naturopaths will be able to call themselves doctors, diagnose and treat disease, perform physical exams and, in collaboration with a medical doctor, deliver babies and prescribe medications. A two-year study will determine whether they'll also be allowed to prescribe medications and perform minor surgery.

To obtain a license, a naturopath must have graduated from a state-approved, four-year, graduate-level naturopathic program accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education and have passed a national licensing exam or state equivalent. But licenses probably won't be issued before late summer or early fall next year, said Holly Lucille, president of the California Assn. of Naturopathic Physicians.

Naturopathic medicine emphasizes the body's ability to heal itself and relies on diet, nutrition, vitamins, herbs and alternative practices. The law prohibits naturopaths from performing acupuncture or practicing Chinese medicine unless separately licensed.

Lucille said the law would allow consumers to distinguish between thousands of practitioners who call themselves naturopaths and the current 101 who have completed accredited programs and passed board exams.

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