While the first two psilocybin service centers to be licensed in Oregon under Measure 109 grabbed the headlines – EPIC Healing in Eugene and Inner Guidance Services in Albany – a very different vision for public access is about to unfold in Bend, Oregon
Many in this new industry are fretting that a fully-sanctioned psilocybin session might cost thousands of dollars, keeping the experience out of reach of those who need it most. In downtown Bend, some psychonauts are working on a double-edged business model which may solve the looming problem of expense.
These plans might even include a microdosing cafe and tourist-friendly magic mushroom bachelor parties – the types of public access that opponents of Measure 109 fretted about while the legislation was under consideration.
Keeping It Local
Together with executive director Amanda Gow, Ryan Reid is the co-founder of Bendable Therapy, a 501(c)3 nonprofit which is coordinating access to clinically proven alternative mental health treatments, including psilocybin. Bendable Therapy will direct clients to local licensed psilocybin service centers for treatment, such as Drop Thesis, which is set to open in August if it gets through its local land use approval.
“Bendable Therapy is going to aim at clients who are on an existing mental health path,” Reid told Lucid News in mid-May. “Let’s say they’ve been seeing a therapist, and their therapist agrees that psilocybin might help them with what they’re working on. They’d come to us, we’d engage with that therapist, let them know how to best prepare the client, the work to do ahead of time. Then they come over and our facilitators take it from there to focus on the psilocybin session itself.”
Reid says they want to focus on helping to ensure that psilocybin services in Central Oregon “not get big,” and just work with their network of local therapists.
After the psilocybin session, the client will go back with their notes for a follow-up session with the therapist they know, who integrates that continued care into their ongoing treatment. The emphasis is on psilocybin as a tool in continuous treatment with the original therapist, not a one-and-done cure. Reid wants to find people who are already suffering from mental health conditions that psilocybin may be able to help with – treatment-resistant depression, addiction, and anxiety – and offer them treatment at low or no cost. Reid says they can do this through the generosity of donors.
There have been 23 applications for service centers in Oregon so far, so there is a sense of a strong demand. Bendable already has a waiting list of six months. Reid has high hopes for the nonprofit.
“Bendable’s goal is to make all this free, with suggested donation. We’re getting some feedback from the community at large,” says Reid. “There’s a lot of people supporting psilocybin, they’re supporting Oregon, it’s the first in the nation.”
According to Reid, the other sources of money will be “large donors.” As for large donors, he says he hasn’t talked to Dr. Bronner’s CEO David Bronner yet, who is a well-known philanthropist in the space, “But he’s on our list.”
Reid says he borrowed the Bendable model from his spiritual practice, mindfulness meditation. “Retreats are free, and at the end, it’s like, ‘Hey, if you found value in this, if you want to support the community, donate what you can.’ Exactly, and it works.”
Having said that, Reid estimates cost per participant will start out at $1,500 and at scale go down to $1,000. Most of that cost is licensing and liability insurance for therapists.
Dave Naftalin, COO of the Drop Thesis service center, graduated in Portland as a state-licensed psilocybin facilitator in March. The training course that he completed at the Changa Institute had to use holotropic breathwork as a therapeutic modality, but Naftalin says he has plenty of experience with mushrooms.
Naftalin says he has seen prices for psilocybin sessions range from $3,500 to $15,000.
“Our plan is to be charging $2,000 a session, which is about half of what everybody else is doing. That includes the intake, the medicine session, and the integration.”
Naftalin’s business partners have applied for a license to run Drop Thesis as a psilocybin service center, but he will spend most of his time growing the company. “I am going to facilitate as much as I can, but timewise I don’t see it happening. We definitely have an aggressive expansion plan for Drop Thesis, multiple service centers in Oregon, then moving to Colorado, Washington when available and any other state that’s approving this.”
He says the goals of Bendable Therapy and Drop Thesis are “super aligned.”
“The goal is to make this medicine available to as many people as possible, through different modalities. Bendable is trying to do it for free for people in need, and we’re trying to do it at the lowest rate that we can to run a successful business.”
As for the service center, it will have walkable access to clients in downtown Bend, with three individual treatment rooms and one group room, plus a microdose café, which Naftalin says might cater to 25 people at a time. The law says the first time doing a supervised microdose you have to stay for at least an hour and take a mini class. After that patrons only need to stay for half an hour.
“Microdosing has a lot of a lot of traction right now, and it would be really nice to get as many people as we can in there and to provide that safe space for any and all that are looking for some healing.”
Is that aimed at locals or tourists?
“For anybody and everybody in between. I believe it’s going to be attracting people from all over the country and maybe all over the world.” He said he has been getting emails and voicemails from afar, especially from people in the UK. “A lot of people have treatment-resistant depression and they’re looking for another toolbox. A lot have alcohol addiction, drug addictions, and they’re looking for a modality to help ease that.”
Would he take on bachelor and bachelorette parties?
“The group sessions can be for anyone. We are happy to take those groups, number one, if they’re booking a service center, which means they’re not doing the typical bachelor bachelorette party routine. And second, they’re having fun, but it might be a much more powerful result than what they thought going into it.”
Naftalin added they would welcome company retreats, “anything where bonding is going to happen, a feeling of being supported and loved.”
The rooms will have themes. Maybe an aquarium theme for one, with live fish, and a jungle room with lots of plants.
Others, especially baby boomers, have been turned on to the idea of doing psilocybin by Michael Pollan’s widely read book How To Change Your Mind. “They are curious, and there’s some anxiety just about getting older in life, and they want to explore that,” says Naftalin.
According to Naftalin, family members of terminally ill people are also interested in using psilocybin. He has talked to people who want as many as ten family members to come for treatment, and to integrate their sessions, making sense of the end of life.
Would that be expensive?
“They keep saying to me, ‘What is the price of peace of mind for when I pass?’ I don’t think there is a monetary value on that, if it works.”