This $3M Endowment Will Progress Psychedelic Research for Veterans

VETS provides psychedelic therapy to veterans as well as other support measures

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    In March, the Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS) announced the establishment of the Janice B. Brittingham Endowment for Veteran Healing. According to VETS, the $3 million fund will be used to expand VETS’ capacity to provide Foundational Healing Grants to veterans seeking treatment with psychedelic-assisted therapies. We had the great opportunity to sit down and interview Amber Capone, Executive Director at VETS, for the following question-and-answer session:

    Schaeffer's Investment Research (SIR): What is the plan to optimize the usage of the $3M donation made recently?
     
    Amber Capone: The Janis B. Brittingham Endowment for Veterans Healing was established by a $3 million gift. The endowment will be used to directly fund VETS' Foundational Healing Grants, which provide coaching and other resources for VETS grant recipients as well as financial support for travel costs associated with psychedelic therapy treatment. Each Foundational Healing Grant recipient receives grant funding for psychedelic-assisted therapy, international travel support, individual preparation and integration coaching sessions, group integration coaching for veterans and their spouses, yoga and meditation classes, and ongoing access to VETS' community support network. All Foundational Healing Grant recipients also participate in scientific research to contribute to existing knowledge of the safety and efficacy of psychedelic-assisted therapies.
     
    Schaeffer's Investment Research: VETS works to reduce the stigmas associated with trauma and psychedelic therapies, and to ensure that veterans have access to the most effective healthcare options. What kind of progress have you been able to make on the advocating front in decriminalizing the usage of psychedelics? 
     
    Amber Capone: In June 2021, VETS was instrumental in the passage of Texas HB 1802, which authorized the first-ever Texas state-sponsored study of psilocybin-assisted therapy for veterans with PTSD. Introduced by Rep. Alex Dominguez (D), the bill moved through the Texas legislature quickly, with broad support from a bipartisan coalition of policymakers, scientists, veterans, family members, and others. Now, with Texas taking the lead on psychedelic policy reform along with Oregon and other states, VETS has also started working with policymakers in other localities, including Connecticut, Oklahoma, Georgia, and California, to encourage policy changes that support research and improved access to psychedelic therapies for veterans, here in the country they served. 
     
    SIR: Can you share the impetus for the creation of VETS?
     
    Amber Capone: VETS began as a grassroots effort to help Marcus' former SEAL teammates after his own successful psychedelic therapy experience outside the U.S. The mission expanded to others in the Naval Special Warfare veteran community as word quickly spread. The suicide of a dear friend and former teammate in 2018 propelled us out of our comfort zone, launching a formal organization with a goal of ending veteran suicide. VETS has consistently provided 100+ grants per year for veterans who are leaving the U.S. in search of psychedelic therapy alternatives, with a larger goal of policy change within the United States.  VETS is built upon the core tenement of never leaving a teammate behind.
     
    SIR: What is the focus for your research going forward? Are there specific psychedelics that you are focusing in on to help our veterans at this time? If so, why?
     
    Amber Capone: We are most focused on ibogaine from a research perspective, because that’s the psychedelic treatment that seems to hold the most promise for treating both PTSD and TBI, the latter of which has been called the signature wound of the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re currently referring our veteran grant recipients who receive ibogaine therapy to Dr. Nolan Williams at Stanford University, who’s right now conducting the first-ever fMRI brain imaging study looking at how the brains of veterans change (or don’t) after treatment, and how that correlates with their PTSD and TBI symptoms. We’re really excited to soon see the first-ever images of brains, so we can see exactly how ibogaine might be working to heal the brains of veterans who’ve experienced trauma.
     
    We will also soon be announcing a first-of-its-kind data collection effort with Dr. Alan Davis of Ohio State University, which aims to enroll every VETS grant recipient, regardless of their chosen psychedelic modality. VETS is reviewing additional study proposals from a number of our nation's top research institutions.
     
    SIR: Are you working with any other major psychedelics research companies in your initiatives or do you conduct your research in-house or with academic institutions exclusively?
     
    Amber Capone: Right now, we’re only working with academic centers to conduct the research, but we would be open to exploring partnerships with other kinds of companies, if such partnerships would expand our ability to help veterans safely and legally access psychedelic therapies now or in the future.
     
    SIR: Is there anything else you’d like to share about VETS’ mission and goals?
     
    Amber Capone: The legislative element of our mission is emerging as the most dynamic part of VETS' national footprint. Aside from burgeoning legislation and new hope emerging within the veteran population, we are also seeing incredible bipartisanship and cohesiveness across the aisle in support of our goal to end veteran suicide.

     

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