Yampa Valley clinics are gearing up for psychotherapy with psychedelic mushrooms

Colorado voters have opted to legalize the use of psilocybin mushrooms. Local treatment centers are preparing to include the fungi in 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 the Minds in Motion Integrative Care Clinic in Steamboat Springs to provide assisted services using psychedelic mushrooms in 2024.

Angela Melzer, owner of Minds in Motion, said the state timeline for implementing psychedelics-enhanced mental health therapies authorized by Proposition 122 is late 2024, but providers “have a lot to do before then.”

An important step in making psychedelic mushrooms available to adults 21 and older in licensed facilities is for DORA, or the State Department of Regulatory Agencies, to create a regulatory structure for those facilities. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis will also appoint a 15-member advisory board.

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

“I believe in the drug and feel like it can be helpful and supportive for people, so let’s destigmatize it by writing and talking about it and sharing articles to demonstrate its effectiveness,” said Cristen Malia, clinical advisor for mental health at Minds in Motion.

Proposition 122 also decriminalizes the personal possession, cultivation, and sharing of five natural psychedelic substances by persons 21 and older, but their sale remains illegal. The use of psychedelic substances remains illegal under federal law.

The use of psychedelic mushrooms was decriminalized in Denver in 2019, and Colorado is the second state after Oregon to decriminalize mushrooms and establish a regulated herbal psychedelics industry.

Cristen Malia, Clinical Mental Health Advisor at Minds in Motion, says using psychedelic mushrooms can be effective when administered in the right way with the care of a facilitator.
Cristen Malia/Photo courtesy

Steve Walls of A&S Counseling in Craig said that a group practice of four trauma-focused counselors will participate in the Psychedelic Mushroom Training.

“If it’s going to be legal in Colorado, we need to be able to provide quality aftercare,” said Walls, whose group will study the research to see if they will offer the treatment service as a licensed facility.

Recent voter approval offers opportunities for legal, supervised use of the therapy, intended primarily for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or anxiety. Researchers are also studying use for terminal cancer patients or in palliative care.

However, Professor Scott Thompson, director of the Center for Novel Therapeutics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said his and other research studies Showing effectiveness for the use of psychedelic mushrooms, the voter-approved measure has many vague issues that need to be worked through. He mentioned some concerns such as regulation of the quality and finish of the product, and the time and cost of the treatments that are not covered by health insurance. The professor also questioned whether facilities that receive federal funding can prescribe the drug.

Professor Scott Thompson, director of the Center for Novel Therapeutics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, says research studies show the effectiveness of using psychedelic mushrooms.
University of Colorado/Photo courtesy

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 could expand for use in 2026, such as: B. mescaline, which is extracted from peyote cacti.

Thompson’s greatest concern is proper supervision of psychedelic mushroom use in a controlled situation, as normal dosages provide a potent experience for up to six to eight hours. The mind-altering substance can take people to dark places where a professional therapist should be on hand to help the patient process.

“It certainly seems safer and more prudent to use these potent substances under the watchful eye of trained moderators within the meaning of the law,” Thompson noted.

The professor said using psychedelic mushrooms “isn’t for everyone,” especially for patients suffering from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. He said patients need to be properly counseled by a professional facilitator so they are not afraid of mind-altering effects such as visual changes.

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

“The promise of psychedelic medicine is incredible,” said Thompson, who has been a researcher for four years. “There is no doubt that the talk therapy part is an incredible asset and an absolutely essential part of the law.”

In general, research shows that “the side effects are fairly minimal and these are remarkably safe compounds,” Thompson said, noting that psychedelic mushrooms are not addictive.

Malia agrees patients on psychedelic mushroom treatments may have to go through “tough stuff during the journey”. She found that when delivered in the right way, the experience can be effective in reducing symptoms of mental health issues and supporting people through trauma.

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

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