Two Epidemics in Oregon: Mental Health and COVID-19
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us are understandably preoccupied with immediate physical health risks and immune support. Yet, the pandemic takes a toll on our mental health, too. First responders, essential workers, caregivers and those in quarantine are all experiencing stress and trauma that may have long-term impacts on mental health. The 2003 SARS outbreak led to dramatic increases in depression and post-traumatic stress among healthcare workers.
All of our other long-term health concerns – including mental health – are still with us, even when we are faced with a highly contagious and potentially deadly infectious disease. Mental illness has been a growing epidemic in Oregon and across the country, even before COVID-19. According to Mental Health America, Oregon ranks dead last among the 50 states for mental health.
Expanding mental health treatment options is all the more critical now, as we will be faced with an inevitable spike in mental illness from the COVID-19 pandemic. Top among those options is psilocybin-assisted therapy, and that’s why we need to introduce Oregon’s ballot measure, IP 34.
What is Psilocybin Therapy?
Psilocybin therapy is a mental health therapy that uses psilocybin, a plant medicine derivative found in mushrooms, to treat depression, anxiety, trauma and other mental health challenges.
Research by institutions like John Hopkins and UCLA has shown that psilocybin therapy, when done by trained professionals, can help people with depression and other trauma break through a variety of mental health conditions.
Psilocybin works differently than conventional pharmaceutical medications, which need to be taken daily and often come with an array of adverse side effects. Research shows that psilocybin assisted therapy is safe and effective. In just a few psilocybin sessions with a licensed facilitator, patients have found lasting relief from various forms of depression, anxiety and trauma.
Psilocybin therapy works by breaking “mental loops” that often entrap people that are feeling depression and anxiety, and help patients see problems and life in a new light. Once the loops are broken, therapists can help patents tackle problems with a new perspective that often leads to long term improvements in mental health.
Patient outcomes have been so promising that in 2019, the FDA granted psilocybin status as a “breakthrough therapy” for major depressive disorder. This is done when research demonstrates a new treatment method is more effective than current standards of care.
What is IP 34 and How Can It Help?
Outside of federal clinical studies, psilocybin therapy is not currently available. Ballot Measure IP 34 changes that by asking the Oregon Health Authority to create a licensing system for a regulated program where Oregonians suffering from depression, anxiety, trauma and other challenges can see a trained facilitator to receive supervised psilocybin therapy. By creating this new program, IP 34 gives Oregonians a new treatment option that can help where pharmaceuticals and other treatments have failed. IP 34 will give Oregonians over the age of 21 with those afflictions access to supervised psilocybin therapy provided they are not contraindicated.
IP 34 was carefully written to protect patients and the community. It calls for a two-year rule-making and development process, administered by the Oregon Health Authority, to ensure that the program is well-run and has a positive impact. For more details about the measure, go to https://yesonip34.org.
What Can You Do?
- If you are a registered voter in Oregon, please download, sign and return the petition at https://yesonip34.org. In order to appear on the November 2020 ballot in Oregon, the campaign for IP 34 must collect 155,000 signatures from registered Oregon voters by July. There has been a groundswell of support, and the signature-gathering was well on its way to that target when the COVID-19 shutdown began. It’s much harder to reach voters without people on the streets. A physical signature on paper is required by law! Please, sign the petition if you are a registered voter in Oregon, and return it promptly!
- Donate to the IP 34 campaign at https://yesonip34.org. Gathering signatures online and via mail has raised the cost of the campaign. Right now, you can double the value of your donation. Dr. Bronner’s family is offering a matching funds donation up to $50,000.
- Share this information with your family, friends and colleagues! Let them know that you support IP 34 and give them the opportunity to support it, too.
We are so close to having this groundbreaking and much-needed mental health therapy available to Oregonians. Less than 15,000 additional signatures are needed to qualify for the November ballot. Don’t let the COVID-19 crisis cause us to lose this important opportunity to address our mental health crisis.