TheraPsil’s Open Letter to Canada’s Health Minister

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 Minister 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

A.Kwasnik-Krawczyk M.D., ABFP, CCFP(PC)
Aaron Fitzpatrick MD ER Physician
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
Bruce Tobin, Ph.D., Registered Clinical Counsellor (BC); Founder of TheraPsil & President of Board of Directors
Claire Weiss, Registered Clinical Counsellor
Cora Bilsker, RSW
Cora Lauzon registered nurse medical
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
Daphne Lobb, Palliative Care Physician
Darrell Adams Registered Nurse
David Lawrence, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor (UofT)
David Renaud MSW RSW
Dayna Myles, Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology Candidate
Deana Brandt, Licensed Psychotherapist
Debbie Stavropoulos, MSW, RSW
Desiree Wengrowich
Dorothy Gamble RN
Dr Andrew Bui-Nguyen, Family Medicine
Dr Anthony Giordano, Family Physician and Palliative Care Provider
Dr Danusia Kanachowski, Palliative Medicine Physician
Dr Jeanette Smith
Dr Jonathan Malo, Public Health and Preventive Medicine Specialist
Dr Saskia E Acton , hospitalist
Dr Stefan Kuprowsky ND Naturopathic Psychiatrist
Dr. Andrew Jervis, Family Physician
Dr. Angela Grace, PhD, Registered Psychologist
Dr. Barbara Griffin, BSc, MD, CCFP, FCFP
Dr. Boris Henriquez
Dr. Brenda Durdle, Registered Psychologist
Dr. Carlos Yu
Dr. Dinesh Bhayana, MD CCFP (EM)
Dr. Elliot Jacobson
Dr. Fraser Black, MD, CCFP(PC), FCFP
Dr. J. Gordon Reid
Dr. Jamey Adirim, Psychiatrist
Dr. Jennifer Anderson, Family physician
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. Scott Kouri
Dr. Shauna Sutherland, Registered Psychologist
Dr. Stephanie Marchal, PsyD
Dr. Susan McIsaac
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
Hillary McBride, Registered Psychologist
Jane Olsen, Nurse Practitioner
Jean-François Stephan, M.D.
Jeff Toth, RN, CPMHN(C)
Jenna Fletcher, Registered Psychotherapist
Jennifer Nagel, MA, RCC
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
Kelly Anthony, Ph.D.
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
Palliative Care Specialist and GP Oncology
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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