Yampa Valley clinics gear up for psychedelic mushroom therapy for mental health

Colorado voters chose to legalize the use of psilocybin mushrooms. Local medical facilities are preparing to introduce mushrooms into their programs.
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After Colorado voters narrowly passed Proposition 122, or Access to Natural Psychedelic Substances, training is progressing for several clinicians at Minds in Motion Integrative Care Clinic in Steamboat Springs to offer supervised psychedelic mushroom services in 2024.

Angela Meltzer, owner of Minds in Motion, said the state’s timeline for implementation of the psychedelic-assisted mental health therapy measures approved by Proposition 122 is late 2024, but providers have “a lot of work to do before then.” .

A key step toward offering psychedelic mushrooms to adults 21 and older in licensed facilities is the creation of a regulatory structure for these facilities by DORA, or the State Department of Regulatory Agencies. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis will also appoint a 15-member advisory board.

In addition, providers must undergo training, which some Minds and Motion employees have started through an organization called MAPS, or Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, based in San Jose, Calif., Meltzer said.

“I believe in medication and I feel it can be helpful and supportive for people, so let’s destigmatize it by writing and talking about it and sharing articles to show its effectiveness,” said Kristen Malia, a clinical mental health counselor in Minds in Motion.

Proposition 122 also decriminalized the personal possession and cultivation and sharing of five natural psychedelic substances by people 21 and older, but sales remained illegal. The use of psychedelics also remains illegal under federal law.

Psychedelic mushroom use was decriminalized in Denver in 2019, and Colorado joined Oregon as the second state to decriminalize mushrooms and create a regulated plant-based psychedelic drug industry.

Kristen Malia, a clinical mental health consultant at Minds in Motion, says the use of psychedelic mushrooms can be effective if administered in the right way with the care of a facilitator.
Kristen Malia/Courtesy photo

Steve Walls of A&S Counseling in Craig said a group practice with four trauma-focused counselors will participate in psychedelic mushroom training.

“If it’s going to be legal in Colorado, we have to have the ability to provide quality follow-up care,” said Walls, whose group will study the study to see if it will offer the treatment service as a licensed facility.

The recent voter approval provides opportunities for legal, controlled use of the therapy, largely intended for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or anxiety. Researchers are also investigating use in patients with terminal cancer or in palliative care.

Professor Scott Thompson, director of the Center for New Therapies at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said that although his and other research show efficacy for the use of psychedelic mushrooms, the voter-approved measure has many unclear issues that need to be addressed. He mentioned some concerns such as regulation of product quality and handling, and the time and cost of treatments not covered by medical insurance. The professor also doubts whether medical facilities that receive federal funding will be able to prescribe the drug.

Professor Scott Thompson, director of the Center for Emerging Therapies at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, says research shows efficacy in the use of psychedelic mushrooms.
University of Colorado/Courtesy photo

The state law refers to two substances — psilocybin and psilocin — found in psychedelic mushrooms, as well as three other plant-based psychedelic substances that the state may expand for use in 2026, such as mescaline, which is derived from the peyote cactus.

Thompson’s bigger concern is proper monitoring of psychedelic mushroom use in a controlled situation, as a normal dose provides a powerful experience for up to six to eight hours. The mind-altering substance can take people to dark places where a professional therapist must be available to help the patient through.

“It certainly seems safer and more prudent to use these powerful substances under the watchful eye of trained facilitators as mandated by law,” Thompson noted.

The professor said the use of psychedelic mushrooms was “not for everyone”, especially not for use by patients suffering from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. He said patients should be properly counseled by a professional facilitator so that they are not scared of mind-altering effects such as visual changes.

“It’s incredibly powerful. You are no longer in control of your thought process. The risk of a bad trip is real and that’s why people have found they need a preparation session before using this drug,” said the professor. “People say it’s one of the most powerful and meaningful experiences they’ve ever had.”

“The promise of psychedelic medicine is amazing,” said Thompson, who has been working on the research for four years. “There’s no question that the talk therapy part is an incredible benefit and an absolutely essential part of the law.”

Overall, research shows that “the side effects are quite minimal and they are extremely safe compounds,” Thompson said, noting that psychedelic mushrooms are not addictive.

Malia agrees that patients may have to go through “hard things along the journey” with psychedelic mushroom treatments. She noted that the experience can be effective if delivered in the right way to reduce symptoms of mental health challenges and support people through trauma.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty now about how we can offer it, but it’s moving in the right direction,” she said.

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