Arizona Governor Approves Bill To Allow Workers’ Compensation for MDMA Treatment | Turn 420
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Arizona Governor Approves Bill To Allow Workers’ Compensation for MDMA Treatment

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Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs recently signed Senate Bill 1677, which will permit both firefighters and certified peace officers to receive workers’ compensation to cover the price of MDMA therapy if they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill only takes effect if or when midomafetamine (MDMA) becomes federally legalized though.

According to the bill, the Industrial Commissions of Arizona would be directed to provide “reimbursement values in its schedule of fees and publish guidelines on billing and  reimbursement practices for midomafetamine.”

If or when enacted, it would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to first approve MDMA, which would allow the workers’ compensation to be approved. However, the bill currently does not create any regulatory framework for MDMA therapy. “If an independent medical examination reveals a treatment protocol of midomafetamine is deemed a reasonable and necessary treatment and follows the treatment guidelines established by the Industrial Commission of Arizona, workers’ compensation coverage may include on complete course of a treatment protocol of midomafetamine as prescribed by a psychiatrist,” the bill stated.

Sen. David Gowan, sponsor of SB-1677, believes that MDMA will be beneficial to many people if it can be legally used in a therapeutic setting. “At the end of the day, it’s about saving lives hopefully, saving our first responders lives who are out there protecting us each and every day,” Gowan said in February.

At the time, three lobbyists who represented insurance companies, spoke against the bill. “If this treatment comes out, [and] it works, it will be widely adopted in the workers’ compensation system,” said lobbyist Marc Osborn. “But we just don’t know.” He added that using opioids for pain management in the early 2000s was a disaster, and recommended that legislators “take it slow, be careful.”

Another lobbyist, Mike Williams, made a claim that increased accessibility of MDMA won’t help. “While they’re debating whether this is the right modality or that’s the right modality and then they want to go to an independent review, I’m just hoping that the firefighter doesn’t get so depressed that that he or the police officer commits suicide and leave their family,” Williams said in February.

Legislators such as Sen. J.D. Mesnard ultimately voted against the bill due to concerns. “I think we all agree we want the best treatment for our first responders,” Mesnard said. “This may be it—I don’t know. But I am just uncomfortable making that decision right now rather than letting the normal process play out.’”

On June 18, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed House Bill 1570, which would have permitted psilocybin use in designated treatment centers. According to Hobbs, there isn’t enough evidence to confirm that psilocybin can be safe and useful for veterans. “The state’s psilocybin research advisory board established last year recently issued its annual report, with a clear message: although psilocybin may be a promising treatment in the future, we do not yet have the evidence needed to support widespread clinical expansion,” said Hobbs. “Arizonans with depression and PTSD deserve access to treatments that may be seen as outside the mainstream, but they should not be the subject of experiments for unproven therapies with a lack of appropriate guardrails.”

In 2023, Hobbs’ budget included $5 million dedicated to psilocybin research, but HB-1570 would have also added an additional cost of $400,000.

HB-1570 sponsor T.J. Shope told a reporter from The Center Square that he is disappointed that the bill didn’t pass, especially since it received overwhelming support in both the House and the Senate. “If we were still in session, I’d be pushing to override her veto but I’ll have to settle for trying again next year,” Shope said.  I won’t stop fighting for our veterans and first responders to get the mental health care they deserve in these clinical settings. Sadly, Arizonans will now have to continue leaving their own state and country to receive this type of treatment. It’s truly a sad day for those who have put everything on the line for us.”

Meanwhile in California, SB-803 (also called the Heal Our Heroes Act) was announced on June 17 by sponsors Sen. Josh Becker and Senate Minority Leader Brian Jones. Recently, SB-803 was amended to include restricted language about who would qualify under the psilocybin therapy program. The use of “first responders” in the bill text has since been changed to “former” first responders, as well as defining that anyone who is in active duty cannot apply. Previously, there were a number of professionals who could administer psilocybin, but now the language has been reduced to include just physicians and surgeons.

Many studies on psilocybin and MDMA continue to show how it can be an effective treatment for a variety of conditions. A recent study published in Clinical Case Reports shows how both psilocybin as well as MDMA can benefit those who are suffering from COVID Long-Hauler’s symptoms, including severe anxiety, depression, debilitating headaches, and cognitive difficulties.

Another study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in February showed that MDMA can help increase feelings of happiness during a positive social interaction, which could also potentially assist PTSD patients as well.

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