During the November 2020 elections, voters in the state of Oregon approved ballot measure 109, which directed that the state’s Health Authority license and regulate the manufacture, purchase, sale, transportation and delivery of psilocybin products as well as the provision of psilocybin services.
The resolution also prevented the state’s government from collecting sensitive information from individuals without consent. It did so by deliberately failing to use a medical model in an effort to make psilocybin services available for different purposes outside of therapy. This meant that clients who accessed these services wouldn’t qualify for protection under the federal law that protects personal patient information from being disclosed without consent.
However, this may soon change if a recently introduced legislation is passed.
The legislation in question, SB 303, was introduced by Senator Elizabeth Steiner. It requires that centers offering psilocybin services gather sensitive personal data about their clients and avail it to the Oregon Health Authority, which will in turn maintain a database of psychedelic users. The data to be retrieved includes information on any behavioral health conditions a client suffers from, any reason for which a consumer wants psilocybin services administered and the nature of said reasons.
The measure highlights that clients who prefer to not share their personal information will not be able to access these services.
Advocates for the measure state that collecting of data for analysis is important because it will help evaluate whether the psilocybin services program is successful and also determine changes that need to be made to improve the program.
The executive director of Healing Advocacy Fund, Sam Chapman, stated that without the data, it would be impossible to know how the psilocybin program was helping individuals with mental health issues as well as who still couldn’t access the services. He added that client data would also help address safety concerns.
Without HIPAA protections or guidance from the Department of Justice to deprioritize federal prosecution against another substance classified under Schedule I, however, nothing hinders the Drug Enforcement Administration from looking for psychonauts in the Oregon Health Authority’s database.
To tackle this, SB 303 calls for data anonymization, which will involve delinking clients’ names from profiles. This, Chapman notes, will make sure that no personal client details will be included in data forwarded to the Oregon Health Authority. It will still be difficult to protect clients from efforts to reverse-engineer their identities, whether by hackers or government agencies. This is because collection of large data volumes make it easier to identify individuals.
It would be interesting to hear what leading startups in the psychedelics space, such as Field Trip Health Ltd. (OTC: FTHWF) (TSX: FTHW), have to say about the proposed law seeking to collect patient data in Oregon, or indeed anywhere else, given the current contractions between federal and state laws in different jurisdictions.
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