Walking Each Other Home with Community-Based Psychedelic SupportDec 02, 2021
Growing Pains and the Access Bottleneck
Psychedelic therapies are making headlines due to the unprecedented benefits demonstrated in clinical trials for persons with refractory mental illnesses. However, psychedelic assisted therapy is resource intensive and will likely come with a price tag putting it out of reach of many persons that could benefit from such therapies. Even ketamine assisted therapy as it currently exists is largely inaccessible due to few providers, lack of insurance coverage, and price tags out of many persons' budget.
On the one hand, I'm so happy we're making these major strides and breakthroughs in the realm of clinical research and patient care models involving psychedelic therapies. On the other hand, there's a major barrier when it comes to affordable and equitable access: How will these therapies and experiences be available in safe and supported settings to all that could benefit without forcing people to choose between a roof over their head, groceries, or psychedelic therapy?
What can be done?
I believe the answer resides in communities.
Success through Community and Peer Supported Models
Back in 2013 I was completing my field study during the Master in Public Health curriculum. I stayed in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for a couple of months. I studied an non-government organization (NGO) called MoPoTsyo that utilized peers to screen communities for diabetes using urine dipsticks or hypertension using blood pressure cuffs. They would provide a training program to these peers, who then went back and opened their homes as safe places for persons to come and discuss health concerns they were having as well as perform the screenings. If a community member screened positive they were then referred to a doctor for diagnostic confirmation and to receive prescriptions for treatment. MoPoTsyo ran what is a called a 'Revolving Drug Fund' (RDF) which was seeded with grant funding. The RDF bought up supplies of diabetes medications from manufacturers or other NGOs specializing in the redistribution of unwanted/unneeded drugs. They charged locals a tiny co-pay for accessing the funds' medicines, one that an average person in Cambodia could afford, and these proceeds were enough to keep the fund in operation (revolving). I remember being amazed at the way they leveraged communities to help each other, the efficiency of the RDF's overall operation, and the fact the care provided was in no way sub-standard. Truly, something I hadn't witnessed happening in the US healthcare system during my doctorate of pharmacy curriculum. I walked away understanding that peers and communities, with a little training and structure, in combination with a few willing professionals, can meet health needs in new and expansive ways that extended beyond what the few professionals would be capable of if working alone.
I see many parallels between MoPoTsyo and PsychedeLiA Integration.
PsychedeLiA Integration is a Los Angeles community based group of peers and professionals. They're a registered 501c3 non-profit organization that provides integration circles, psychedelic education, and social events for the community. They also operate an 'Integration Fund'. The fund focuses on assisting marginalized persons that have been subjected to systemic racism or other systemic forms of discrimination such as BIPOC populations. All donations to the fund are tax deductible. Half of sales from events and all money donated directly to the fund is utilized to help persons receive psychedelic integration therapy or psychedelic integration coaching (and in the near future psychedelic treatments themselves). As excitement around novel treatments using psychedelics reaches fever pitch, we're in need of societal systems to support persons. In reality, the medical model as it stands will not be able to be offered as broadly as is needed to produce the types of societal shifts many proponents of the psychedelic renaissance would like to see. We will need to leverage our communities, building mycelial-like support webs and peer networks, to allow persons safe and affordable access to psychedelic therapy related services like PsychedeLiA's Integration fund aims to do.
You can make a donation to the fund or apply to receive its benefits using the links below:
Breakthrough Psychopharmacology and the Integration Fund
As a board member for PsychedeLiA Integration and spouse to the organizations' founder (Shiri M Godasi), I've personally pledged to donate an hour long consultation each month to persons that successfully apply to the fund and would benefit from a discussion about their medications and psychedelics. I'm also giving a talk for them this coming Thursday, December 9th at 6pm PST. The talk is titled 'Breakthrough Psychopharmacology: Ketamine, MDMA, and Psilocybin' and will focus on comparing and contrasting the mechanism, metabolism, and clinical research of these 3 frontrunners of psychedelic therapy. I'm going to be taking a half hour of Q&A after the talk and plan to touch a little upon effects of combining these breakthrough substances or modalities. It's a virtual event so you can tune in from anywhere with an internet connection and your ticket sale will support the Integration Fund.
Register for the talk to confirm your spot and support the Integration Fund using this link: https://www.psychedeliaintegration.org/events/https://www.eventbrite.com/e/214464548237
It's been amazing to witness the growth and expansion of this organization. From a single integration circle my wife kindled in the backroom of a spiritual boutique store to an operation hosting several circles with many professionals monthly and an operational charity fund over a few years is nothing short of incredible.
It is efforts and organizations like this that will truly help us 'walk each other home' during the psychedelic renaissance while making the therapies accessible to all.
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