I have devoted my career to caring for people with mental illness, a disease we don’t want to talk about. I live with this same disease. I feel the stigma rise as I name this. It’s not cool to have mental illness. Also, it’s not a choice.

Of the roughly 300,000 Maine adults who live with mental illness, 49.4 percent of us receive some form of psychiatric treatment, which leaves 50.6 percent who receive no treatment at all. At best, our mental health system offers palliative care. At worst, it offers nothing. It is time for innovation, which just might come in the form of a fungus that contains a compound called psilocybin.

Recent studies at Johns Hopkins, Yale and New York universities have demonstrated that a single dose of psilocybin, in controlled settings, produces an enduring decrease in depression symptoms. Similar data are available for obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, end-of-life anxiety and nicotine addiction. There is a hitch, though: Psilocybin is a Schedule 1 drug, illegal at the federal level. The Maine Psilocybin Services Act seeks to change that.

The Maine Psilocybin Services Act (L.D. 1582) will soon be considered by the Maine Senate. This legislation would establish a system of safe access to psilocybin treatment services, provided by licensed and trained facilitators.

I cannot know if psilocybin will bring us closer to a cure for mental illness. But if current research bears out, it is the greatest reason for hope I have seen in a generation.

Amy Partridge-Barber, LCSW
Cape Elizabeth

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