A CVS pharmacy in Stafford Springs Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Pharmacists in Connecticut can prescribe hormonal birth control following the governor’s Tuesday signature on a bill which requires participating druggists to complete an accredited training program on contraceptives. 

Gov. Ned Lamont issued a press release after signing the bill which advanced through the House and Senate this year on bipartisan votes. The bill also legalized vending machines capable of dispensing over-the-counter drugs including a type of emergency contraceptive. 

Lamont said the legislation was part of a broader effort to ensure access to birth control.

“By enacting this law, we are removing barriers that can sometimes prevent women from accessing birth control,” he said. “This law acknowledges that pharmacists are vital to our medical system and are at the frontline of care for many patients.”

Pharmacists wishing to participate in the new program will need to complete training approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education on the prescribing of both hormonal and emergency contraception. 

It was unclear Wednesday how soon Connecticut pharmacists would become accredited to prescribe the medication. 

In adopting the policy, Connecticut joins 22 other states which, as of last year, had allowed pharmacists to prescribe birth control, according to the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations

According to the advocacy group, Power to Decide, some 180,000 Connecticut women live in so-called “contraceptive deserts.” Proponents of the pharmacist program hope the new law will improve access to reproductive health care in areas of the state where medical options are limited. 

“Providing women with the opportunity to simply stop by their local pharmacy to be prescribed contraceptives, instead of a primary care provider, will eliminate barriers and drastically expand access, especially for those in rural and underserved areas,” Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz said in a press release. 

The bill found bipartisan support in the legislature, passing the House on a 125-21 vote and clearing the Senate unanimously. In a Tuesday statement, Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, applauded Lamont’s signing of the bill.

“I have heard from women from across the state: They want this policy change,” Somers said. “Many women don’t have convenient access to primary care physicians and live in reproductive health care ‘deserts’, so they appreciate having this option.”

In addition to the provisions on contraceptives and over-the-counter medication, the bill included a range of recommendations from the Department of Consumer Protection concerning drug regulation including a section designed to expand access to opioid antagonists like Narcan including through needle exchange or vending machines.