Last week, Quebec became the first governing medical body in Canada to publicly fund medical psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, with advocates hoping that it would set a precedent for other provinces to follow suit.
Psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in certain species of mushrooms, is commonly known in popular culture as “magic mushrooms.” It has shown promising results as a treatment for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addiction.
But access to psilocybin and psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy has been extremely limited in the country, with some terminally-ill patients waiting over a year for approval from Health Canada to use it legally. And even when patients have a legal exemption, healthcare practitioners have not been able to bill for the treatment due to a lack of codes.
However, two doctors, Dr. Houman Farzin and Dr. Jean-François Stephan, were able to change this and successfully bill for and get paid by the province of Quebec for psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy treatment given to a patient with legal access granted through Health Canada.
Following the treatment, Dr. Stephan compiled evidence and submitted a letter, cosigned by 15 colleagues, arguing that the treatment was safe and effective and that the doctors should be covered.
The Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec, the governing body for general practitioners in Quebec, negotiated with the government to amend the codes and agree that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy is a medically insured service. This made it possible for the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux to amend the existing codes and charge for the session.
“I think it’s amazing news that patients have covered access to such an important treatment option and it’s an encouraging sign for psychedelic medicine,” said Dr. Stephan in a news release.
“Quebec has chosen to align with the science in regards to psychedelic medicine and recognize it as a medically indicated service in specific circumstances.”
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