This article originally appeared on Psychedelic Alpha. Founded by Josh Hardman, Psychedelic Alpha is an independent website, newsletter and community that is devoted to empowering a diverse constellation of individuals and organizations with the knowledge, network and nuance to make an impact within the field of psychedelic medicine and beyond.
Late last week, Oregon Health Authority announced that it has issued the first psilocybin service center license, just over two-and-a-half years since Oregonians passed Measure 109 which mandated the creation of Oregon Psilocybin Services. For campaigners, policymakers and hopeful psilocybin business operators, it’s taken a great deal of effort to get to this point.
The first service center license has been awarded to EPIC Healing Eugene. Here, Psychedelic Alpha pieces together the path to licensure by speaking to the owner, Cathy Rosewell Jonas. Cathy Rosewell Jonas had a “powerful and life changing psychedelic experience” on her 18th birthday, which she says ignited her own “personal and spiritual growth path.”
A licensed clinical social worker, Cathy has been practicing for 35 years, and started her own counseling and coaching practice nine years ago in 2014. She provides a variety of offerings out of a leased unit on Willamette Street in Eugene, Oregon, with a practice that revolves around neurofeedback, with ancillary services ranging from hypnotherapy to Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
It seems, however, that Jonas’ early psychedelic experience led to an interest she struggled to shake: she has authored two books on the psychedelic experience and benefits of plant medicine, with her most recent tome published in 2021.
It’s not surprising, then, that Jonas wanted to get involved in Oregon’s new psilocybin services program.
But, it hasn’t been easy. Myriad hurdles and challenges associated with Oregon’s program (many of which I documented in a recent report from reMind) have led to a slow and expensive licensing process.
Jonas has provided a first-hand look at these challenges, documenting “the ups and downs” of trying to establish a licensed service center and becoming a licensed psilocybin facilitator in the Beaver State via a YouTube channel for the last six months.
A Challenging and Expensive Path to Licensure
“There is literally like a zillion steps to go through,” Jonas told viewers of a video she posted in late January. She’s addressing viewers from Eugene City’s Planning office, having submitted a Land Use Compatibility Statement (LUCS) for the modest psilocybin service center she hopes to open.
A LUCS must be reviewed and signed by City officials before a service center license can be submitted. As its name suggests, the purpose is to make sure that a service center is compatible with land use regulations, which have already tanked other service center plans (most prominently those of Synthesis).
Unlike other hopeful service center operators, Jonas isn’t (for now, at least) looking to open up a large retreat-style operation, or even a standalone facility: she’s looking to offer psilocybin services in a unit she rents for her existing counseling practice, which consists of two counseling rooms separated by a hallway and a bathroom.
A fortnight later, the City signed her LUCS, allowing Jonas to continue with her service center plans. Shortly thereafter, she ordered a 375-pound (170 kg) safe and arranged for a security company to fit out her rented unit with a new security system.
The costs didn’t stop there: “It just goes on and on,” she said.
Prior to site inspection, Oregon Psilocybin Services (OPS) notified her that the security camera system she had installed was not set up correctly, meaning cables and equipment had to be ripped out and re-routed.
Then, the matter of insurance arose. Given that psilocybin remains on Schedule I, it’s tricky to find an insurance policy. Jonas said that her annual policy ended up costing around $10,000.
Prior to beginning the process, Jonas had hoped that, if she “really splurged,” she might spend a maximum of $30,000 to open up a psilocybin service center in her existing space. In reality, it’s cost her somewhere between $55,000 and $60,000, she told us.
And, this is all before staff costs. Despite the fact that Jonas’ service center was intended to be very small (a “boutique style service center”, in her own words), and operated only a couple of days out of her existing counseling space, many of these costs are fixed.
In order to break even after six months of operating, Jonas said that she would need to charge “probably around $3,500 a session.” This is, indeed, the pricing the center ended up landing on for 1:1 high dose psilocybin sessions, though group sessions and lower doses do bring the price down slightly (but, not within the reach of the average Oregonian):
“It’s not a pretty picture right now,” she said.
Her plans to open the service center for two days a week and maintain her neurofeedback business (“our bread and butter”) on the other days were dashed when Jonas learned that she cannot serve minors at all at her location; even when the service center side of the business is closed.
This fact, coupled with the significant early demand for psilocybin services, according to EPIC’s waitlist, might encourage Jonas to open the service center more than a couple of days per week, potentially cannibalizing her existing practice.
“The demand for psilocybin services has been incredible,” said Jonas. “We had 55 on our waitlist before May 5th”, which is when the news broke that EPIC would be the first service center in Oregon. Now, there are well over 300 potential clients on the center’s waitlist.
It’s a fairly even split between in-state and out-of-state enquiries, with inbounds coming “from all walks of life,” according to Jonas.
Despite the fact that Oregon’s psilocybin program is explicitly non-medical (meaning, among other things, Jonas cannot practice under her licensed clinical social worker status), most of the enquiries EPIC has received thus far have been from people “who have PTSD and trauma,” with around one third describing depression as their primary reason for seeking EPIC’s services, she said.
EPIC has also lined up potential psilocybin suppliers. Jonas explained that one of their suppliers will be Tori Armbrust’s Satori Farms PDX, who received the first license to manufacture psilocybin in the state. “She puts motherly love into her mushrooms”, Jonas said.
Jonas said that EPIC hopes to begin delivering psilocybin services in the third week of May, but “we are still pulling together many logistics.”
How Many Service Centres Can the Market Sustain?
EPIC told Psychedelic Alpha that they expect to see around two-hundred clients in the remainder of 2023 in its small service center. If EPIC is able to offer larger sessions, in a different location, that number could grow significantly.“
What’s happened to me, after receiving so many referrals, is that it’s inspired me to start thinking bigger about this,” Jonas said, adding that during a psilocybin experience two years ago she “was ‘told’ by the mushrooms that this was going to be ‘Big, Big, Big’.”
But, the question on the minds of many is, just how many psilocybin service centers can this demand support, given the high costs and prices associated with these offerings? This question will be top of mind for the growing pool of psilocybin facilitators who have shelled out thousands of dollars on training programs, with virtually nowhere to practice their skills and recoup their costs (as we recently covered here).
Despite the fact that prices will be out of reach for most Oregonians, out of state interest might drive some demand. In a recent video Jonas and her colleague, Heather Shelton, explained that they’re “really actively seeking out some sweet Airbnbs and other spaces for folks when they come to town, so that they can feel comfortable.”
But, if psychedelic policy reforms continue apace, might this demand dry up when individuals are able to access legal psilocybin (or, psychedelic) services closer to home, or in a decriminalized setting they feel comfortable with?
Jonas didn’t sound too worried about the coming competition when she spoke with us. It’s natural, she told us, “that it will become more competitive between the manufacturers, service centers, psilocybin training programs, as more come on line, but I feel there is more of a feeling of cooperation than competition in Oregon’s roll out of psilocybin.”
“That’s how I want to operate. This is heart work and many have felt a calling to this sort of work. I trust in that.”
Featured image: A counseling room at EPIC.