MADISON, Miss.—Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed legislation on Wednesday, House Bill 1302, that expands the scope of optometry in the state. The state’s senate had passed the bill earlier, and it was originally introduced early this year in the state’s House of Representatives. The legislation expands the scope of practice for optometrists, including the ability to prescribe certain medications and perform specific procedures. The new rules are set to take effect July 1, 2021, Ryan Wally, OD, legislative chair for the Mississippi Optometric Association (MOA), told VMAIL on Thursday.

Specifically, House Bill 1302 provides improved pharmaceutical authority that includes oral steroids; grants optometrists injectable authority; and allows for excision and removal of chalazion, removal of noncancerous growths in and around the eyelid, and laser capsulotomies.

The expansion of care for ODs is “good news” for the state, Wally noted.

“This bill improves access to care for Mississippians all across the state by allowing optometrists to practice closer to the level of their training,” Wally said. “Mississippi optometrists practice in 72 of our state’s 82 counties and are the primary providers of eyecare statewide. Updating our state law will allow us to continue to recruit the brightest and best optometry graduates back to our state.”

Wally had said earlier that there was strong opposition to this legislation, with many speaking out against this increase in access to care during multiple committee hearings, through lobbyists and through the use of billboards around the Capitol building.

“Our state board of optometry will be responsible for credentialing any optometrist who would like to perform the procedures that are part of the bill’s amendments,” Wally said.

“Optometrists will have to participate in at least 32 hours of coursework regarding the new procedures. Once completed, they will then have to take a written examination and clinical skills assessment administered by the board. Each OD will also be required to complete at least 8 hours of preceptorship with an ophthalmologist or optometrist licensed to perform these procedures,” he said.