What is Utah’s Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force?

by | Aug 22, 2022 | Legal Update

Utah’s Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force is active and operating, but what is it?  What is the task force doing? Who is on the task force, and why was it formed in the first place? You can find the answers to all of these questions below as we take a closer look at Utah’s first mental illness task force.

What is the Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force?

The Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force in Utah is a group of medical and legal experts from around the state.

Utah House Bill 167 established the Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force. Voting for the bill was almost unanimous, with the House passing it 68 – 1, and the Senate 23 – 1. Utah HB 167 was passed on March 22, 2022, and the task force has been busy ever since.

What is the Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force Doing?

A first of its kind in Utah, the mental illness task force is studying different psychotherapy drugs.

The group’s primary purpose is to address mental illness in Utah by reviewing current scientific research on alternative medicines for mental health.

Some of which include natural plant medicines, like the psilocybin found in medicinal mushrooms. Research on these and other psychotherapeutic substances is being reviewed as potential treatments for serious mental illness. With scientific research advancing, interest in using these natural compounds to treat mental health issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more.

As outlined in HB 167, “The task force shall provide evidence-based recommendations on any psychotherapy drug that the task force determines may enhance psychotherapy when treating a mental illness.”

These recommendations will include, but are not limited to;

  • Specific types and symptoms of mental illness for which psychotherapy drugs could be used as a treatment option
  • Drug dosage and administration recommendations
  • Licensing or credential requirements for individuals administering said drugs
  • Required training for administers of the drug
  • Recommended frequency of use
  • Suggested procedures to obtain, store, and monitor the use of the drugs
  • Safety requirements and procedures for tracking data

Who is on the Mental Illness Psychotherapy Drug Task Force?

So who are the medical and legal experts who have been tasked with making these recommendations? The board members for the task force have already been selected.

HB 167 outlined the requirements for task force members as follows;

  • A representative from the Utah Medical Association
  • An individual who researches and studies neuroscience and mental health
  • A patient who is knowledgeable about the use of a psychotherapy drug, nominated by a patient advocacy group
  • A licensed pharmacist
  • The executive director or the executive director’s designee; and the Chief Executive Officer of the Huntsman Mental Health Institute at the University of Utah
  • A licensed psychiatrist
  • A licensed psychologist
  • A representative from a Utah hospital or a major healthcare system
  • A clinician who is board certified in addiction medicine
  • A trauma-focused therapist
  • A licensed attorney with knowledge of the law regarding controlled substances and other drugs
  • A medical or psychiatric ethicist with knowledge of the ethical and legal issues pertaining to psychotherapy drugs

What’s Next For Psychotherapy in Utah?

Currently, the task force is still reviewing research and other resources. They have until October 31 to submit their report and recommendations to the Health and Human Services Interim Committee.

Once submitted and reviewed, it will be a group effort to potentially present legislation expanding mental health treatment options in Utah. Of course, it will only move in this direction if there is enough clear scientific evidence that these methods for treating mental illness are valid and worth pursuing for patients in Utah.