ashland.news
May 26, 2024

Ashland psilocybin center encourages use for treating veterans with PTSD

Psilocybin. Photo via Oregon Health Authority
April 8, 2024

Donors sought for nonprofit that helps veterans access psychedelic programs

By Paul R. Huard, for Ashland.news

An Ashland psilocybin service center wants to collaborate with a nonprofit organization that advocates the use of psychedelic mushrooms to treat post-traumatic stress disorder to bring free or reduced cost “psilocybin experiences” to help heal local veterans.

Omnia Group Ashland held a fundraiser for Heroic Hearts Project on Saturday to raise money to help provide scholarships for veterans seeking treatment for PTSD. The hope is enough money will be raised for Heroic Hearts Project that Omnia Group Ashland will be part of the nonprofit’s network of psychedelics-based programs so former military members could receive dedicated financial assistance at the service center, said Brian Lindley, co-owner, during an interview.

Fifty-five people attended the event, said Michelle Lindley, co-owner and wife of Brian Lindley, in a reply Sunday to an emailed question. There was no total of the amount of money raised yet available, she said.

“We do not have numbers yet, but our fundraising will be an ongoing endeavor,” Michelle Lindley wrote. “It was educational, and a wonderful collaboration of people working toward a goal.”

Michelle Lindley

Omnia Group Ashland is one of two psilocybin service centers in Ashland. It opened in 2023.

Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic chemical produced by more than 100 species of mushrooms worldwide, including certain mushrooms that grow wild in Oregon. Also known as “shrooms” or “magic mushrooms,” there is ongoing research looking at the potential of psilocybin to treat various mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Advocates also say it is powerfully effective in treating individuals suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, two all-too-common medical issues experienced by combat veterans of the more-than-20-year U.S. global war on terrorism.

After Oregon voters approved Measure 109 in 2020, the Oregon Health Authority established a regulatory framework for service centers that administer psychedelic mushrooms to help ensure they operate in a controlled and supervised manner. The ballot measure, which became Oregon law, allowed the use of psilocybin for therapeutic purposes.

However, state law doesn’t allow retail purchase of psychedelic mushrooms, and a person using psilocybin for medical purposes must be age 21 or older to receive treatments.

Dr. Zach Skiles

In addition, psilocybin remains listed by the U.S. government as a Schedule 1 narcotic. Under federal law, Schedule 1 drugs are defined as possessing high potential for abuse or drugs that have no recognized medical uses.

Zach Skiles, a former U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran who is resident clinical psychologist with Heroic Hearts Project, was guest speaker at the fundraiser. Skiles said he benefited immensely from the supervised use of psilocybin in treating his own PTSD and saw impressive results in other veterans who were also treated.

“It is the safest psychedelic that we know about, which is why it has been let into the community,” he said during an interview Saturday before he spoke. “I saw people’s trust factor going up, and people’s PTSD symptoms were going down. Their cognitive abilities were improving. I decided it was something that I needed to look into further.”

Skiles said he hopes that a long-term affiliation between Omnia Group Ashland and Heroic Hearts Project will be established because ultimately he wants to see a “community of shared language and shared understanding about what psilocybin and other psychedelics are, and what they can do” to benefit veterans. He also hopes that a group of local volunteers will form to help assist with the programs at Omnia Group Ashland.

The “psilocybin experiences” as they are called are expensive. According to Omnia Group Ashland’s website, the fee to work with a “facilitator” (the term required by Oregon law) can be as much $2,500. The cost of the psilocybin is additional.

Brian Lindley

Health insurance plans in Oregon do not cover the costs. Sliding scale fees are available based on means testing, Brian Lindley said, but there is currently a limited amount of scholarship money available.

Reasons for the high prices include the level of service selected by client, lodging, the option of having a personal chef and additional services such as equestrian therapy or yoga, as well as the need to have intensive and careful monitoring of the client for health and safety reasons during a multi-day period, he said.

“We actually have higher standards than the (Oregon Health Authority) has in their regulations,” Brian Lindley said.

Guests during the fundraiser were asked to donate suggested amounts ranging from $6,000 for a single veteran’s scholarship up to $60,000 to sponsor five families.

“If you don’t put it out there, you won’t raise any money,” he said. “We decided we will put it out there. Many of these veterans are desperate.”

Email freelance reporter Paul R. Huard at paulrhuard@gmail.com.

Related story:

Second mushroom center to open near downtown Ashland (Aug. 3, 2023)

Take a quick trip with a licensed psilocybin facilitator (March 31, 2024)

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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