New state task force will look at psychedelic medicines

The Alaska Legislature passed a couple of bills aimed at improving health care services. The measures are now headed to Gov. Mike Dunleavy for his consideration.

House Bill 228 would set up a state task force to recommend regulations for use of psychedelic medicines that the federal government is expected to approve soon. The first of those medicines expected to be approved, called MDMA, is considered useful for treating post-traumatic stress disorder. Approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is anticipated within months.

Anchorage Sen. Forrest Dunbar, who carried the bill on the Senate side, pointed out that it does not legalize or take any position on psychedelic medicines.

“Instead, it creates a task force designed to prepare Alaska and our regulatory framework should the FDA approve the medical use of these substances, which some folks are anticipating could happen as early as August this year,” he said.

Alaska is well-positioned to benefit from psychedelic therapies, Dunbar said. Among all U.S. states, Alaska has the highest percentage of military veterans, some of whom have suffered post-traumatic stress, he said. Alaska also has high rates of suicide and large numbers of residents who have endured domestic violence and other traumatic events that lead to mental health problems, he said.

Psychedelic-assisted therapy “can help some of those people. Not everyone, but some. And that means everything in the world,” he said.

The Senate passed the bill by an 18-1 vote. The House passed the bill by a 36-4 vote.

A second health bill approved by lawmakers would allow nurses with lapsed state licenses to be granted temporary state permits valid for up to six months.

Such temporary permits are already granted to nurses who are applying for their initial state licenses, lawmakers pointed out. Giving the same opportunity to nurses who previously had licenses will help encourage some to return more quickly to service in Alaska from retirement or other breaks, they said.

The measure, House Bill 237, is a technical fix to “a problem that we should have addressed a long time ago,” said Wasilla Sen. David Wilson, who carried the bill on the Senate side, where it was approved unanimously.

Granting a temporary license to those seeking reinstatement of lapsed licenses poses no more risk to the public than does the current temporary licensing of first-time applicants, he said in floor comments.

The bill is one way the state can address its nursing shortage, Wilson added.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization.


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