Experts have now been chosen for one of the hottest committee assignments in Oregon.
A select group of doctors, social workers and fungi experts will now spend the next couple of years creating Oregon’s new psilocybin-assisted therapy program.
When voters passed Measure 109 – to allow the active ingredient of hallucinogenic mushrooms to be used in therapy – they gave the state two years to develop a program.
The new board will be charged with following science to create Oregon’s regulatory framework for psilocybin. Clinical studies, including research from Johns Hopkins University, UCLA and NYU, have shown promising results using such treatment methods for people suffering from anxiety, depression and PTSD.
“Like many, I was initially skeptical when I first heard of Measure 109,” said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. “But if we can help people suffering from PTSD, depression, trauma and addiction –– including veterans, cancer patients, and others –– supervised psilocybin therapy is a treatment worthy of further consideration.”
“I have directed the board to take steps to ensure equitable access to this therapy for anyone who might benefit from treatment, including Oregon’s Black, Indigenous, Tribal and communities of color.”
The state received committee applications from as far afield as Geneva and New Zealand, but only Oregonians were chosen.
Members are now poised to create a program that could take the medical field by storm — if psilocybin therapy proves effective.
One of the scientists chosen for the board is Dr. Atheir Abbas, assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience and psychiatry in the OHSU School of Medicine.
“I am proud that Oregon continues to be a leader in evidence-based approaches to help improve the health and well-being of its communities, and look forward to working with the other highly-qualified members of the Board to ensure that science guides our implementation of Measure 109,” said Abbas.
“Measure 109, and the appointment of the Psilocybin Advisory Board, represent a unique opportunity to carefully evaluate the therapeutic role of psilocybin in clinical practice,” said board member Dr. Todd Korthuis, professor of medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine. “Much like myself, healthcare providers and researchers worldwide are eager for the answers this Board can provide to help develop a framework for more accessible and effective therapies to treat serious illness.”
Dr. Jessie Uehling, PhD, an assistant professor of fungal biology in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology at Oregon State University, was chosen for her knowledge of mushrooms. “My expertise in fungal diversity and biology research will aide in developing best practices to monitor, evaluate and quantify the psilocybin and mushroom production industries over time,” said Uehling.
Barb Hansen, the CEO of the Oregon Hospice and Palliative Care Association, will also serve on the committee. “Each year over 22,000 Oregonians receive hospice care, and while we have many tools to address the physical pain that comes with terminal diagnoses, we lack tools to address the severe mental anguish so many of these Oregonians face,” she said.
“Studies show psilocybin therapy may help, and that means it’s essential that everyone receiving Hospice and Palliative Care is represented when the Psilocybin Advisory Board considers research, rules and safety considerations.”
Another committee member is Dr. Rachel Knox, co-founder for the Cannabis Health Equity Movement, “For decades Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people in Oregon and the United States have suffered disproportionate psychological trauma as a result of the ‘War on Drugs,’” she said.
“There is a real danger that, if lawmakers and regulators do not center Oregon’s psilocybin regulatory framework in health equity — from treatment access to leadership and representation to economic opportunity to education to harm reduction –– that Indigenous people and communities of color will not have equitable access to its therapeutic benefits.”
The chief petitioner of Measure 109, Tom Eckert, will also serve on the board.
The Psilocybin Advisory Board will meet by March 31. The Governor’s recommended budget for 2021-23 contains $5.6 million for Measure 109 implementation, but that amount still requires approval from lawmakers.