Saud Anwar

State Senator

Saud Anwar

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working For You

March 21, 2022

Bills Increasing Access To Mental Health Medication, Co-Sponsored By Sen. Anwar, One Step Closer To Becoming Law

Today, two bills seeking to increase public access to medication aiding individuals with mental health passed out of the Public Health Committee, bringing them one step closer to becoming law. State Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor), Vice Chair of the Public Health Committee, co-sponsored both bills, which if approved would respectively would include new treatment options for mental health issues and end a practice where less expensive methods of treatment may take precedence over administering medication.

“Our state, and our nation, continues to deal with a mental health crisis, and we need to make sure we are aiding those struggling however we can,” said Sen. Anwar. “These bills can play an important role in ensuring we streamline ease of access to important, even lifesaving drugs, and that we are studying and pursuing all options available to treat individuals’ mental health, including ones that have been previously disregarded.”

House Bill 5396, “An Act Increasing Access To Mental Health Medication,” would establish a pilot program studying the use of psilocybin-assisted and MDMA-assisted therapy as part of an expanded access program approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Up to three sites would be approved for this program, as well as a Connecticut Psychedelic Treatment Advisory Board in the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“This is an extremely important piece of legislation that would give our veterans and many others struggling with PTSD and other mental health challenges access to non-traditional treatment options,” said State Representative Michelle Cook (D – Torrington). “Every day, we lose people to suicide because they feel that there is no other option. We owe it to them to provide them other options to save their lives.”

While currently considered as Schedule I substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration, recent studies have found potential therapeutic uses for MDMA and psilocybin, also known as “mushrooms,” especially among veterans. Veteran groups including Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions, the Heroic Hearts Project and Reason for Hope testified in support of this legislation, finding that treatment using these substances has been found effective. Lieutenant General Martin R. Steele, CEO of Reason For Hope, cited a designation by the Food and Drug Administration that MDMA can treat post-traumatic stress disorder and psilocybin can treat depression in a safer and more substantial form than currently available treatments.

House Bill 5275, “An Act Prohibiting Certain Health Carriers From Requiring Step Therapy For Prescription Drugs Used To Treat Mental Or Behavioral Health Conditions,” would end a requirement of using “step therapy.” This practice, as defined by Blue Cross Blue Shield, sees health carriers try less expensive treatment options before “stepping up” to more expensive ones. For example, someone having issues with allergies may first try using an over-the-counter medication; if they do not get relief, they may be recommended medicine based on tiers of expense and affordability. However, when treating mental or behavioral health concerns, individuals unable to access the medication best suited to help them may be forced to use less-helpful options first, indirectly depriving care or even exacerbating their condition if the medication is counterintuitive.