In summary

Our goal is to end the veteran suicide epidemic by providing research and advocacy for veterans seeking psychedelic therapies.

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By Marcus Capone, Special to CalMatters

Marcus Capone is a former Navy SEAL and founder and chair of VETS Inc.,

After 13 years and multiple combat tours as a U.S. Navy SEAL, I was medically retired and ready to return to a normal life with my wife and children. But after being home, my family knew I was struggling to adapt to civilian life. 

Every day I was struggling with a multitude of challenges including depression, anxiety, isolation, headaches, insomnia and impulsivity. Additionally, my wife began to notice my cognitive functions were starting to decline. 

I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. I visited therapists, was prescribed antidepressants and countless other pills, but nothing helped. While searching for treatments, we began learning more about  traumatic brain injury. Thirteen years as an explosives expert, coupled with 15 years of tackle football had clearly taken a toll on me. 

I had tried countless failed treatments and felt hopeless. But that’s when my wife found out about psychedelic therapy. 

With no other options left, I felt I had nothing to lose by pursuing psychedelic treatment outside the U.S. Practically overnight, I felt a huge weight had been lifted and my cognitive functioning returned. After years of frustration and hopelessness, I got my life back. 

The powerful and immediate relief I felt was too incredible not to pay forward. I knew we had to help my friends, former teammates and eventually all veterans access these lifesaving interventions. My wife, Amber, and I began a successful grassroots effort in 2017, which birthed our current organization, VETS Inc.  Our goal is to change veteran health care and end the veteran suicide epidemic by providing resources, research and advocacy for military veterans seeking psychedelic therapies. 

Now, California is taking groundbreaking steps to give all veterans access to psychedelic therapy through Senate Bill 519, introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco. It would be a vital line for life for so many in need.

Psychedelic therapy has become a promising approach for many veterans who have struggled with treatment-resistant trauma and life-altering injuries, including traumatic brain injury following their years of service. However, because treatment is only available legally in other countries, psychedelic therapy has been unavailable for many veterans, leading those who need it most to spend a great deal of money or risk arrest in order to receive the help that they need. 

Addressing the current mental health crisis among our veterans requires immediate action. In recent years, veteran suicide rates have risen and the mental health crisis in this country has continued to grow. Many veterans have lost more of their fellow servicemembers through suicide than they did while they were deployed. Past approaches to the mental health treatment of our veterans are simply not enough. 

Treatments that may give veterans new hope and a chance to reclaim their lives should be made accessible and a priority. I applaud California for leading the way with SB 519, which will give veterans more access to these lifesaving treatments, and help end veteran suicide.

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