TheraPsil’s Open Letter to Canada’s Health Ministers

Background: On November 1st, 2021, TheraPsil sent Canada’s New Health Ministers, The Honourable Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Dr. Carolyn Bennett a letter co-signed by 194 Canadian healthcare professionals, regarding the urgent need for medical psilocybin regulations in Canada. The letter, and the co-signatories who consented to be made public, can be seen below. 

Open letter to the Federal Ministers of Health 

November 1st, 2021

Dear Honourable Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Dr. Carolyn Bennett.

Congratulations on your appointment to the new cabinet. 

We, the undersigned, are qualified medical practitioners; including physicians, therapists, nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers who believe that Medical Psilocybin, naturally occurring in certain mushroom species (aka magic mushrooms) should be accessible on compassionate grounds to all Canadians suffering from treatment-resistant physical and mental health conditions such as severe substance use disorder, depression and anxiety, and cluster headaches, and end-of-life distress, to name a few. 

About a year ago, The Honourable Minister of Health, Patty Hajdu, made the decision to approve the compassionate use of psilocybin treatment for terminally ill patients and for 19 health care practitioners for psilocybin psychotherapy training. Thanks to your government’s leadership, Canada has become one of the first countries in the world to facilitate access to these two groups. 

Over the last year, compassionate exemptions have had a positive impact on the quality of life and death for dozens of patients, their family members, and their communities. We are honoured that our government recognizes the validity of our approach, guided by the fact that you have taken the next step to also authorize the first exemptions for non-palliative access to psilocybin. We know of about 41 Canadians with cancer, depression, and anxiety, and/or addiction, who are now able to legally possess and consume mushrooms, along with the 19 medical professionals eager to complete training and treat appropriate patients. 

We write to you today to shed light on a major issue with section 56 exemptions. Our experience has been that the exemption granting process is unpredictable, unequal, and unsafe. 

While a few Canadian patients have been granted Section 56 exemptions, hundreds of others experience lengthy delays while their applications and physician support letters are scrutinized by Health Canada staff. In some cases, these delays have exceeded 200 days and have resulted in applicants dying before an exemption was ever granted. We don’t know who is making decisions, or how decisions are made, however, each patient we have supported is deserving of this important therapy. Patients are now taking their applications to court and we can not help but feel a sense of shameful deja vu as we see our Canadian patients battle this country’s government over access to essential medical treatments. 

Many of these same patients would be able to access Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) for their suffering in as little as 3 days.  We feel it is a constitutional right for patients to have equal and compassionate access to Medical Psilocybin instead of turning to their only other option for alleviation of their distress being medically assisted dying. Psilocybin treatment needs to be a clinical decision between the patient and their physician, not a bureaucratic one.

Millions of Canadians are currently being prescribed many different drugs, with variable effectiveness, to treat the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Few of these drugs are designed to treat the underlying causes of their symptoms, but rather to suppress symptoms, sometimes at a great cost to the health care system as well as the patient’s quality of life. We, medical practitioners, are reviewing the latest research and some of us are witnessing patients with and without section 56 exemptions healing their psychological conditions, pain, and distress through psilocybin therapy. We want to compassionately support these patients and are asking for your help. 

In British Columbia and the rest of the country, the opioid crisis is claiming thousands of lives through overdose and the tainted drug supply. A group of physicians in BC are now focusing on supporting a number of patients who are using psilocybin to treat the cause of their substance use disorder, rather than mitigating risk.  We have applied for federal funding for pilot projects treating substance abuse with psilocybin, however, without section 56 exemptions or regulations, we can not support these patients. 

We believe that all Canadian patients should be given the right to access Medical Psilocybin. We believe that the decision should be between patients and health care professionals and that a medical regulatory system is the best way to ensure psilocybin access is safe, predictable, and equal. 

We medical practitioners also believe that as psychedelic therapy is used more often as an effective intervention for mental health disorders, the supply of therapists and physicians trained in psychedelic therapy must meet the coming demand.  Psilocybin and other compounds, such as MDMA, must be delivered in a highly specialized mode of practice for safety and effectiveness.  Without the trained professionals available, psilocybin therapy remains inaccessible, regardless of Section 56 exemptions or changes in legislation.  We, practitioners, need exemptions as well to align with current professional training programs.

We believe that our patients have a right to Medical Psilocybin and this open letter is to demand this right on their behalf. We need a compassionate and immediate response and solution to the Section 56 applications for psilocybin access and seek your response to our proposed request for ‘Access to Psilocybin for Medical Purposes Regulations‘.

Please, Honourable Ministers, we need your compassion and for you to do the right thing. 

Respond to our Patients and to our fellow Doctors and health care professionals. 

Best Regards, 

From the Undersigned Health Care Practitioners

Adrian Oberg, Integration Specialist

Adrienne Hafemann, MSW, RSW

Alan Maybee RCC SEP

Aleesa Sutton, Registered Clinical Counsellor

Alishia VanDrimmelen, RPN

Alyssa Wright, RN

Amanda Theriault, RN BScN

Amanda Worthington-Wallin, BScN, RN

Anika Sawatsky, MA Student

Anika Young, Clinical Therapist

Anna Roth Trowbridge, Mental Health and Emergency RN

Anne-Marie Armour, MSW, RSW

Ashley Voros RN, BScN

Becky Shorrock, Registered Nurse

Beth Trotter, Psychotherapist

Beth Trotter, Registered Clinical Counsellor

Bonney Elliott, Registered Psychotherapist, Nurse Practitioner

Brittany Boyer, M.Ed., C.C.C.

Brodin Anderson MA, APC

Claire Weiss, Registered Clinical Counsellor

Cora Bilsker, RSW

Cora Lauzon, Registered Medical Nurse

Cory Stewart, Registered Clinical Counsellor

Counselling Supervisor, Canadian Counselling & Psychotherapy Assoc.

D. Esther Allen-Fogarty NP-PHC, BScN, MN

Dana Fisher B.A. MSW

Dana Simard, RCC SEP

Darrell Adams Registered Nurse

David Renaud MSW RSW

Deana Brandt, Licensed Psychotherapist

Debbie Stavropoulos, MSW, RSW

Desiree Wengrowich

Dorothy Gamble RN

Dr. A.Kwasnik-Krawczyk M.D., ABFP, CCFP(PC)

Dr. Aaron Fitzpatrick MD ER Physician

Dr Andrew Bui-Nguyen, Family Medicine

Dr. Andrew Jervis, Family Physician

Dr. Angela Grace, PhD, Registered Psychologist

Dr Anthony Giordano, Family Physician and Palliative Care Provider

Dr. Barbara Griffin, BSc, MD, CCFP, FCFP

Dr. Boris Henriquez

Dr. Brenda Durdle, Registered Psychologist

Dr. Bruce Tobin, Ph.D., Registered Clinical Counsellor (BC); Founder of TheraPsil & President of Board of Directors

Dr. Danusia Kanachowski, Palliative Medicine Physician

Dr. Carlos Yu

Dr. Daphne Lobb, Palliative Care Physician

Dr. David Lawrence, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor (UofT)

Dr. Dinesh Bhayana, MD CCFP (EM)

Dr. Elliot Jacobson

Dr. Fraser Black, MD, CCFP(PC), FCFP

Dr. Jamey Adirim, Psychiatrist

Dr Jeanette Smith

Dr. Jean-François Stephan, M.D.

Dr. Jennifer Anderson, Family physician

Dr Jonathan Malo, Public Health and Preventive Medicine Specialist

Dr. Hillary McBride, Registered Psychologist

Dr. J. Gordon Reid

Dr. Kelly Anthony, Ph.D.

Dr. Matthew J. Breton

Dr. Michael Ocana, Psychiatrist

Dr. Michael Sheppard, registered psychologist

Dr. Naila Debbache, family physician

Dr. Neal Morgan, Psychiatrist

Dr. Nikhita Singhal, Psychiatry Resident

Dr. Prachi Soneji

Dr. Robert T. Carey, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Rosa Wu

Dr. Ryan Patchett-Marble, MD, CCFP

Dr. Sabrina Akhtar, MD MHSc CCFP

Dr Saskia E Acton , hospitalist

Dr Stefan Kuprowsky ND Naturopathic Psychiatrist

Dr. Scott Kouri

Dr. Shauna Sutherland, Registered Psychologist

Dr. Stephanie Marchal, PsyD

Dr. Susan McIsaac

Dr. Valorie Masuda, Palliative Care Specialist and GP Oncology

Dr. Victoria Reedman MD (Neurology Resident)

Ed Hanczaryk

Eldar Israfilli, RPN

Ele Molnar, RTC

Elinor Bazar, Registered Clinical Counsellor

Emma Wickett, RN

Erin Kowalewich, M.Ed, RCC

Fabiola Pérez, RTC

Fola Vickers, Psychiatric Nurse & Shamanic Practitioner

Graham Walker, Registered Clinical Counsellor

Helen Loshny, Registered Therapeutic Counsellor

Jane Olsen, Nurse Practitioner

Jeff Toth, RN, CPMHN(C)

Jenna Fletcher, Registered Psychotherapist

Jennifer Nagel, MA, RCC

Jennifer Salomon, RN/ NP-PHC

Jessica Flaman, Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapist

Jill Koehler, Registered Clinical Counsellor

Jordan Gross, RN, Psychotherapist

Jordan Hunt, RSW

Joshua Fishman, C.C.C

Juan Cortes, RN

Julie Giroux, Registered Clinical Counsellor

Julien, RSW

Justine Cottingham-Leblanc, RSW-MSW

K. Geis, RN, Palliative Nurse Clinician

Karen Mason, RN, RCC

Kat Herbinson, Registered Clinical Counsellor

Kathryn Bloy M.Ed

Keren Mitchell MN-NP(F), CARN-AP, Nurse Practitioner

Kerry Chutter, Registered Clinical Counsellor

Keyanna Ehsani, RP (Q)

Lanie Chalmers, Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying)

Laurie Schulz, Therapist

Leann Cunningham, RN

Mark Duddridge, Primary Care Paramedic

Martha Perrier, RN

Matthew Butt, LPN

Mehran Seyed Emami, RCC

Melissa Anderson, RN BSN

Melody Alderton-Ballik, RN, Safer Opioid Supply Program

Michelle Coleman, Dietitian & Public Health Practitioner (Retired)

Mike Schmalz, Trauma Therapist

Morgan Ellerton RN, BScN, CPMHN-C

MSN, RN, CNL, PHN, BC-MHN

Natasha Fearnley, BScN, RN.

Nathan Kendall, Spiritual Care Practitioner

Nelda J. Armour, Clinical Therapist

Paige Watson, RN

Rajveer Soos, NP

Rhian Gilbert, Registered Clinical Counsellor

Ryan Boyer, M.Ed., C.C.C.

Sal Bodnar, MA, RCC

Sarah Lovegrove BScN, BA, MA

Sareh Tracey, Addiction Recovery Specialist

Sherry Holt M.Ed RP

Simon Beck RCC. 509

Tamara Smith, RCC

Tracy Lowe, Counsellor

Trevor Brumwell Counsellor

Trina Woods, MSW, RSW

Xaviera Iglesias, Registered Practical Nurse

Yassie Pirani, Registered Social Worker & Registered Clinical Counsellor

 

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