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Atlanta Could Add Psilocybin And Ketamine To City Workers’ Healthcare Plans Under Pending Resolution



A new proposal from an Atlanta City Council member would direct municipal officials to explore the pros and cons of adding coverage for psilocybin and ketamine as mental health treatments to the city’s healthcare plan for firefighters, police and other government workers.

“Traditional treatments for mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and others have shown limited effectiveness for some individuals, leading to a need for exploring alternative therapeutic options,” the legislation, which is currently being sponsored by 11 of the Council’s 16 members, states. “Recent research has demonstrated the potential efficacy of alternative therapies such as ketamine-assisted therapy and psilocybin-assisted therapy in treating various mental health conditions, offering promising results where other treatments have failed.”

The resolution’s lead sponsor, Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari, has said city workers deserve access to a broad range of mental health services.

“We should be offering our employees—and especially our first responders, who are expected to be superhuman—the same amount of grace and providing them with a tool set to essentially overcome this issue,” The lawmaker recently told Axios.

Bakhtiari said the impetus for including the drugs on public employees’ health plans was meeting a West Virginia police officer who witnessed a fellow officer die of suicide and later used ketamine to treat his PTSD. The lawmaker said they’re not aware of any other city governments that have looked into covering psilocybin or ketamine treatment.

The resolution from Bakhtiari would request the Atlanta’s human resources department to “explore the feasibility of adding coverage for ketamine therapy, psilocybin therapy, and other alternative therapies for mental illness in the City’s employee benefits contract during its next round of negotiations.”

The city’s HR department would further be asked to “conduct a thorough review of the scientific evidence, safety considerations, regulatory landscape, liability, cost implications, and applicability based upon one’s job classification to incorporate such alternative therapies as part of the employee’s benefits package.”

Findings of the review would be due to the City Council by December 10 of this year.

Nearly two years ago, Atlanta leaders considered a separate measure Bakhtiari filed to locally decriminalize a broad range of psychedelics—including plants, fungi, spores and other botanical compounds—though it did not ultimately become law.

That same year, a Georgia House committee met at the state level to separately talk about the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin to treat serious mental health conditions that commonly afflict military veterans.

As for workplace coverage of substances like psilocybin and ketamine, it’s a growing area of interest among employers and healthcare companies.

The nonprofit Enthea, which calls itself “the first and only licensed provider of psychedelic health plans,” announced last year that it would cover both ketamine treatment nationwide and psilocybin in states where it’s permitted.

Enthea previously worked with soap company Dr. Bronner’s to offer psychedelic-assisted therapy to workers through their employee health plans.

“We have had our eye on the potential benefits of psilocybin therapy since we founded our company,” Dan Rome, Enthea’s co-founder and chief medical officer, said late last year. “We are very encouraged by published results as well as what we hear from practicing therapists, and are confident that this brings an important new option for combating mental illness.”

Enthea has previously said that its services will expand further to include therapies with other substances, such as MDMA, “as they are approved.”

At the federal level, meanwhile, a top U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) official said earlier this month that there’s an “unstoppable narrative” in support of advancing psychedelic medicine, with a combination of compelling personal stories of recovery and robust clinical data from studies he’s hoping to expand upon. He also said bipartisan acceptance of psychedelics has “surpassed” that of marijuana in Congress.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently considering a new drug application for MDMA-assisted therapy for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The review has been granted priority status, with a public hearing scheduled for next month.

While both MDMA and psilocybin remain Schedule I controlled substances, both have also been granted “breakthrough therapy” status by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee also passed a bill at the beginning of the month that would require VA to notify Congress if any psychedelics are added to its formulary of covered prescription drugs.

President Joe Biden also signed into law a bipartisan measure to provide funding to the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct clinical trials into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics for active duty military members. That was enacted under the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

In March, congressional appropriations leaders also unveiled a spending package that contains language providing $10 million to facilitate the psychedelics studies.

In January, VA separately issued a request for applications to conduct in-depth research on the use of psychedelics to treat PTSD and depression. And in October, VA launched a new podcast about the future of veteran health care, and the first episode of the series focuses on the healing potential of psychedelics.

FDA officials also recently joined scientists at a public meeting on next steps for conducting research to develop psychedelic medicines.

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Workman.

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Ben Adlin, a senior editor at Marijuana Moment, has been covering cannabis and other drug policy issues professionally since 2011. He was previously a senior news editor at Leafly, an associate editor at the Los Angeles Daily Journal and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. He lives in Washington State.


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