The citizen-led movement TREAT California has announced a new initiative to allocate $5 billion for clinical research into the potential benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapies for first responders and veterans.
The ambitious TREAT (Treatments, Research, Education, Access, and Therapies) proposal echoes California’s prior success in advancing stem cell research, replicating the model established by the 2004 California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). This ballot initiative seeks to gain traction for the upcoming 2024 California vote, and the organization is actively collecting 1.4 million signatures to ensure its inclusion.
Jeannie Fontana, MD, PhD, the CEO of TREAT California, expressed her concerns about the current state of mental healthcare. “It’s clear we are in a mental healthcare crisis, as conventional therapies too often fail to offer relief for people suffering from PTSD, suicide, and depression, and the effects are simply catastrophic. I believe it’s a moral imperative to address the limitations inherent in our current system, and it’s high time we got started,” she said in a statement. “The TREAT California Act will aid the development of FDA-approved PATs, which — when administered thoughtfully and professionally — could offer meaningful pathways to the healing that people so desperately need and deserve.”
Notably, the TREAT California Act will not decriminalize or legalize any substances. Its primary purpose is to fund clinical trials that rigorously assess the safety and efficacy of these potential mental health therapies. Once the FDA gives the nod, the treatments will be introduced under the guidance of licensed professionals in closely monitored environments.
Preliminary research indicates that psychedelic-assisted therapies combined with conventional talk therapy could be transformative in treating deep-rooted mental health issues such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
Supporting these claims, a 2021 medical study published in Nature found that MDMA-assisted therapy is highly efficacious in individuals with severe PTSD. It also found that treatment is safe and well-tolerated, even in those with comorbidities. “We conclude that MDMA-assisted therapy represents a potential breakthrough treatment that merits expedited clinical evaluation,” the researchers noted.
Backing TREAT California is a diverse group comprising military veterans, healthcare professionals, first responders, therapists, nurses, and other mental health advocates from across the state. Guy McDermott, a former US Navy SEAL and California firefighter, emphasized the significance of this initiative by sharing, “Without psychedelic therapy, I would not be here today. The TREAT California Act will fund critical research that can help connect folks like me with life-saving care. We need this Act to bring psychedelic medicines into mainstream healthcare.”
Dr. Jeannie Fontana, the force behind TREAT California, has been previously affiliated with groundbreaking stem cell research as a founding Board of Trustees member of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). Under CIRM’s leadership since 2004, two FDA therapeutics have been approved, nine FDA fast-track therapies have been initiated, and several extensive clinical trials have been launched to tackle and potentially cure various diseases.
The effort comes as California lawmakers approved Senate Bill 58 last month that would decriminalize possession and personal use of certain natural psychedelics, making it the largest U.S. state with such a law in effect. Similar measures have been approved in Oregon as well as in Denver and Washington D.C. California Governor Gavin Newsome has not indicated whether or not he will sign the bill into law.
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