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Health Chairwoman Dr. Miller-Meeks Delivers Opening Remarks at First-Ever Oversight Hearing on Emerging Therapies to Combat PTSD, Veteran Suicide, Addiction

Today, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, (R-Iowa), the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health, delivered the following remarks, as prepared, at the start of the Subcommittee’s Oversight Hearing to examine the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ongoing clinical trials involving psychedelic assisted therapy for treating veterans with PTSD and substance abuse disorder:

Good afternoon. This oversight hearing for the Subcommittee on Health will now come to order.

As a 24-year Army veteran, I have seen firsthand the struggles that many servicemembers and veterans face in light of their service.

Which is why I am excited about this first House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs hearing on the potential for psychedelic assisted therapy treatments in the battle against suicide.

VA dedicates a considerable amount of its budget and resources in the pursuit of evidence-based treatments for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other cognitive disorders. For many veterans, this treatment is lifesaving.

But more work needs to be done. It is still a sad reality that close to 17 veterans per day still lose their lives to suicide. One life lost to suicide is one too many and our fight must continue.

Psychedelic assisted therapy is a groundbreaking clinical procedure that has the potential to transform the way we look at mental health care. A licensed clinician carefully examines a veteran prior to administering a dose of a psychedelic compound, such MDMA or psilocybin. A veteran may go through two or three psychedelic sessions during which intense psychotherapy is overseen by a licensed medical professional assisting the veteran throughout the experience.

These sessions last around 8 hours, the full duration of the drug’s effects. Based on the most recent clinical trials, patients experience positive therapeutic responses resulting in a reduction in their symptoms, if not remission altogether.

The fight against suicide and substance abuse goes hand in hand, as substance abuse disorder can lead to a higher suicide rate among veterans.

Therefore, we can’t be afraid to explore new treatment methods, especially the ones that we will hear about today that have proven to transform veterans’ lives.

Still, we must urge caution when speaking on this topic. We are not advocating for the legalization or casual use of psychedelics. What we are discussing is the clinically administered dosage of these substances in combination with targeted therapy sessions, in a clinical setting.

I look forward to hearing more about the process and progress that VA and our private health care partners are making in advancing what could be a new way of treating the debilitating mental health conditions that affect our veteran community. I would like to hear what next steps are anticipated, as well as what challenges, including bureaucratic barriers and safety concerns, should be addressed moving forward.

I am also looking forward to hearing from our second panel on the positive, personal impact this therapy option has had on their lives in successfully treating their PTSD.

I want to reiterate, we are not advocating for the legalization or casual use of psychedelics, but rather the advancement of the science of their medicinal properties in a clinical setting with assisted therapy.

Thank you all for being here and I look forward to our discussion and hearing the multiple perspectives based on the incredible expertise present today on both panels to discuss this important topic.

With that, I yield to Ranking Member Brownley for her opening statement.

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