Theodore Roosevelt is famous for saying “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” The former U.S. President was not, however, from Utah.
The 45th state, despite being a historically conservative stronghold, is now exploring ways to integrate psychedelics into mental health treatment. On Tuesday, a Republican lawmaker filed legislation to create a Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force that would be required to “study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness.” Substances such as psilocybin and others not currently available for legal use would be among those considered.
“We need effective tools to treat mental illness,” said Rep. Brady Brammer (R), who introduced the bill. “If psychedelics can be helpful and safely administered, we need them in our toolbox.”
“Utah has some of the finest researchers in the areas of psychiatry and neurosciences at Huntsman Mental Health Institute,” he added. “This bill seeks to leverage that expertise, along with other experts grappling with mental illness, to review the research results, and if appropriate, make recommendations on how to safely administer these therapeutics under the care of qualified physicians.”
The proposed task force would have a broad range of appointees and represent a diverse mix of clinical backgrounds and disciplines. This includes a psychiatrist, psychologist, a Utah Medical Association representative, a researcher, a person with a civil liberties organization, a patient with experience with psychotherapy drugs, and more.
According to Brammer’s bill, the task force “shall provide evidence-based recommendations on any psychotherapy drug that the task force determines may enhance psychotherapy when treating a mental illness.” Additionally, the task force should outline for the legislature any and all logistical and regulatory schemes regarding safety, procurement, and administration of a drug.
Though it’s a first for Utah, the notion of states—both red and blue—giving a long, hard look at the possible benefits of psychedelic drug therapy is nothing new. Similar measures have been introduced (mostly) or passed in places like Virginia, Kansas, Missouri, California, Michigan, Washington State, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Texas, and Oregon. The news, while obviously encouraging, sadly speaks to an ever-growing epidemic of deteriorating mental health nationwide, all while we continue to navigate the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The volatility of powerful, mind-altering psychedelics should not be feared but understood. Even in Utah and places like it, where we’d never reasonably expect the conversation to even take place, folks in the highest reaches of state government are trying to put patients first.
It’s something Teddy Roosevelt, himself a sufferer of chronic illness, would approve.