Denver Begins Psychedelic Training For First Responders

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a 34-year-old nonprofit research and educational organization “that develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana,” announced in a press release on Monday that it “has partnered with the City and County of Denver to provide comprehensive training on psychedelic crisis assessment and intervention to the city’s first responders.” 

The Psychedelic Crisis Assessment and Intervention training was “commissioned by the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel (DPMPRP), a first-of-its-kind panel that was formed after the passage of Ordinance 301 in May 2019, which effectively decriminalized the personal use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms in Denver,” MAPS said in a statement. 

Per the press release, the training will cover topics including: “The history, usage, psychological and physiological response, and potential adverse effects of psilocybin ingestion”; “The legal considerations and implications of decriminalization and the role of first responders”; “The standards and protocols for effective psilocybin or psychedelic-related crisis response planning, training, and deployment”; and “The best practices and techniques for assessing, de-escalating, and managing psychedelic crises.”

According to the local publication Westworld,  the training program “became even more important in 2022, when Colorado became the second state (after Oregon) to legalize medical psilocybin use and the first state to decriminalize specific psychedelics, including psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine and mescaline.”

“Created as part of the 2019 voter initiative decriminalizing psilocybin, the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel took a brief hiatus in 2023 after Prop 122 passed,” Westworld reported this week. “But the panel is meeting again and is expected to take a leading position in Denver’s approach to its medical psilocybin rules.”

After Prop 122 passed in 2022, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, signed the measure into law last year. The law directs “the department of revenue [to create] the natural medicine division for the purpose of regulating and licensing the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, storage, distribution, transport, transfer, and dispensation of natural medicine or natural medicine product between natural medicine licensees.”

The measure requires the natural medicine division to: “Regulate natural medicine, natural medicine product, and natural medicine businesses, including healing centers, cultivators, manufacturers, and testers, and issue licenses for such businesses; Promulgate rules necessary for the regulation of natural medicine, natural medicine product, and natural medicine businesses; and Perform duties necessary for the regulation of natural medicine, natural medicine product, and natural medicine businesses, including investigatory and disciplinary authority.”

Kevin Matthews, former President of the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Policy Review Panel, celebrated the launch of the training program.

“I’m proud of my hometown for stepping into a national leadership role with this training. It represents a giant leap forward for public health and safety with psilocybin and natural medicines in Denver and is a perfect example of what cities can do to better integrate emerging psychedelic policies into their existing infrastructures. I’m looking forward to the city continuing its collaboration with MAPS to monitor outcomes and educate Denver residents on this exciting new issue,” Matthews said in a statement.

Sara Gael, a former MAPS Harm Reduction Officer, said the group is “honored and excited to collaborate with the City and County of Denver to provide this groundbreaking training program on psychedelic crisis assessment and intervention.”

“We believe that this program will equip first responders with the necessary knowledge and skills to handle psilocybin and psychedelic related crises in a safe and compassionate manner and ultimately improve the health and well-being of the community. This program is also a testament to the progressive and visionary leadership of Denver, which has taken a bold step to decriminalize psilocybin and create a model for other cities to follow,” Gael said.

MAPS said in the press release on Monday that its “training aims to enhance the knowledge, attitudes, and skills of first responders to quickly recognize and effectively respond to emotional and behavioral crisis incidents involving psilocybin and other psychedelics.” The group also said that the “Denver Harm Reduction training initiative has been well received by the City of Denver leadership, who recognize the importance and value of providing first responders with the necessary tools and skills to handle psychedelic-related crises in a safe and compassionate manner.”

“The program also seeks to enhance responder safety and reduce risk and liability in situations where individuals are experiencing a psychedelic-induced crisis,” the group explained. “After three years, a team of over 20 MAPS and subcontracted professionals with backgrounds in law, medicine, psychiatry, mental health, neuropsychopharmacology, law enforcement, crisis response, quality improvement, and education developed the curriculum. The final training is customized for law enforcement, mental health, and emergency medical service personnel and will be delivered through asynchronous videos and corresponding assessments.”

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