Psilocybin Therapy, One Year In | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Psilocybin Therapy, One Year In

Data from one year of legal psilocybin offers insights

One year into the rollout of Oregon’s legal psilocybin program, providers and regulators are starting to get a look at who’s been using the program, and why.

In January 2023, Oregon launched its state-regulated psilocybin therapy program through the Oregon Health Authority. Clients began receiving access to the services in May 2023.

Delivered through the program in licensed service centers under the supervision of trained and licensed facilitators, psilocybin has been shown to offer benefits to people suffering from mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and addiction, among others.

click to enlarge Psilocybin Therapy, One Year In
Julianna LaFollette

Oregon Psilocybin Services, which runs and regulates Oregon’s program, will begin posting data from service centers across the state in 2025 to better understand psilocybin outcomes. The requirement to collect this type of data came out of Senate Bill 303, which passed the Oregon legislature in 2023.

This information will offer more details on the number of clients served, why clients are accessing psilocybin and the outcomes and adverse effects of psilocybin services.

“We think that nationwide and globally, people will benefit from seeing this data come to life from Oregon,” said Angie Albee, the manager of Oregon Psilocybin Services, a section housed within Oregon Health Authority.

Oregon is the first state in the U.S. to legalize psilocybin. While the services have only been offered for a little over a year, Oregon plans to continue to look at its rules and regulations and improve services for clients and providers. Collecting more data on the use and outcomes of psilocybin can help do just that.

As of July 8, OHA reported 347 licensed facilitators, 29 service centers, 12 manufacturers, two testing labs and 634 worker permits issued. In addition, licensed service centers have sold 10,275 products to clients who are going to consume the products during their sessions.

People use the services for a number of different reasons, and many providers have noted the benefits they’ve seen among clients.

"What we're hearing anecdotally about Oregon's program is that for those who've long used antidepressants, talk therapy and other modalities to manage their mental health needs without meaningful results, a single psilocybin session can jumpstart a renewed sense of hope,” said Heidi Pendergast, Oregon director of the Healing Advocacy Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to increase access to psychedelic healing.

While not comprehensively tracking clients’ progress, other local service centers, like Drop Thesis in Bend, have also noted the outcomes they’ve seen over this last year. Drop Thesis received its license in December and started doing sessions on March 1.

“Every day, we see that the services we offer are changing people’s lives,” said Gary Bracelin with Drop Thesis. “It’s pretty extraordinary and rewarding. We’re constantly reminded why we started this business.”

In May, local psilocybin center Bendable released its first annual report based on data from its clients. The report offers an overview of psilocybin use among its clients, providing insights into the use and efficacy of psilocybin as a mental health tool.

From the moment Bendable opened its doors, Executive Director Amanda Gow felt a need to measure and track the effectiveness of its services among clients.

“In this new landscape that Oregon is providing, we wanted to make sure that we were measuring outcomes for two reasons: so clients can make better informed decisions, and so we can make better informed decisions on how to help folks and tailor our services to meet their needs,” said Gow.

Among respondents in the report, cost was reported as the biggest barrier to seeking psilocybin services.

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The Bendable report looked at demographic characteristics, mental health history, reasons for seeking psilocybin services and barriers among those who had submitted applications. The report found that, out of 408 applications, mental health conditions were mentioned 281 times as a reason for seeking the services. Coping with trauma and grief was mentioned 68 times.

Of 74 individuals who were approved for a psilocybin session, 31 responded to the post-session survey. The report noted that 87% of individuals felt that the session was overall a positive experience and 65% described lasting improvement to their mental health and well-being.

Among respondents in the report, cost was reported as the biggest barrier to seeking psilocybin services. The issue of cost, for both providers and clients, is a challenge and a barrier that many providers and people in the industry, including Albee, hope to see improve with time.

“Every year our intention is to open up our rules, and we want to be able to do a really robust, community-involved rulemaking process. It's really important to us to ensure inclusivity and accessibility,” said Albee. Collecting data and information can help make this a reality.

Gow also looks forward to seeing how the program and rules progress. While she’s proud of what Oregon has created, she hopes to see more opportunity for people to get these services.

“Very few people can afford these sorts of treatments, or it comes at a sacrifice,” Gow said. While she noted that Bendable has provided $178,250 in scholarships this year to help people access treatments, it’s still a major challenge. “If we can prove the efficacy, then potentially we can get insurance companies to come alongside and start to cover this for folks. That would make a huge difference,” she said.

Albee noted that data is an important part of public transparency and progress with this program. OHA has a psilocybin advisory board and a rulemaking committee that helps give recommendations to tweak the program’s rules and regulations. OHA is always looking for feedback from licensees and members of the public through public listening sessions to see how people think it can improve services, said Allbee with Oregon Psilocybin Services.

Bracelin with Drop Thesis noted that OHA has been very open to working with licensees to learn and collaborate and figure out ways to regulate the program. “We’re learning every day how we can make the system better, easier to navigate and more friendly to the public.”

OHA looks at all the recommendations it receives and makes decisions based on what would be helpful and doable within the program.

“We’re always weighing out public health and safety,” said Allbee. “We’re demonstrating that we can do this work safely in Oregon, know that we have a precedent that is getting national and global attention and it’s really important that were mindful of the impact that we could have.”

With time, Albee is hopeful that more information and access will yield better results. “We’re such a new regulatory industry or ecosystem that it takes time to really understand what’s happening and so we’re just getting all that information out there for folks,” said Albee. “Were really trying to build a continuum of care for clients to be fully supported.”

Julianna LaFollette

Julianna earned her Masters in Journalism at NYU in 2024. She loves writing local stories about interesting people and events. When she’s not reporting, you can find her cooking, participating in outdoor activities or attempting to keep up with her 90 pound dog, Finn.
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