PTO, 401(k), and…psychedelic therapy? This company makes ketamine an employee benefit.
Psychedelics are more mainstream than ever. Between promising research into the potential benefits for myriad mental health conditions and a growing number of communities enacting decriminalization, interest in psychedelics has reached a fever pitch.
However, regulated psychedelic therapy could be costly. As states like Oregon and Colorado implement psilocybin treatments, the session fees could run in the thousands. It will likely be a similar story for MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD, which is currently in the final stages of FDA clinical trials. And even if the compound is approved, healthcare insurance providers are not guaranteed to offer coverage.
Could ketamine therapy be the future of workplace mental healthcare?
Boston-based firm Enthea is trying to flip the insurance script on psychedelics. Its coverage plans allow employers to select ketamine-assisted therapy (KAT) as a workplace benefit. The anesthetic is one of the only legal psychedelic therapies in the U.S., thanks to its approval for off-label use (a ketamine-derived nasal spray for treatment-resistant depression was also approved by regulators in 2019).
Like other insurance companies, Enthea has a nationwide network of approved providers that specialize in KAT. Services are available in clinic and home, including IV infusions and integration counseling.
Research has shown ketamine to be effective at helping to ease depression and suicidal ideation. The compound facilitates dissociation, potentially making trauma therapy less distressing. Anecdotal evidence suggests a profound impact after only a few sessions.
Much like other psychedelic therapies, KAT is not cheap. A series of guided sessions cost several thousand dollars. Enthea representatives told GreenState that annual fees for partner companies vary but typically start at $30-$200 per year per employee.
Enthea believes companies who invest in KAT coverage could see increased productivity, better retention, and overall improvements in the well-being of employees. But with the added costs and relatively fringe nature of the therapy, the service may be a hard sell for businesses in the uncertain economic climate—especially with mainstream mental health treatments already covered by most employer insurance.
“Enthea’s expansion into nationwide availability underscores our mission of tackling the dual challenges of access and affordability by expediting health insurance coverage for these ground-breaking treatments,” said Sherry Rais, CEO and co-founder of Enthea, in an email to GreenState. “The business case for psychedelic-assisted therapies is evidence-backed and speaks for itself. Our offering will be crucial in addressing the need for healthcare reform that is immensely needed– starting with employers first.”
Early adopters of Enthea include Dr. Bronner’s
Natural soap brand Dr. Bronner’s is the most high-profile Enthea partner. The company, whose CEO David Bronner has been an outspoken proponent of drug reform, recently completed a year-long study that revealed the impact of offering KAT to its staff.
Seven percent of roughly 300 eligible employees took advantage of KAT benefits. Participants with reported PTSD saw an 86 percent improvement in symptoms, while those with major depressive disorder had a 67 percent improvement, and generalized anxiety disorder saw 65 percent.
Despite the relatively low sample pool, the Dr. Bronner’s team viewed the survey as successful.
“Partnering with Enthea to offer ketamine-assisted therapy to our workforce is something that I’m especially proud of,” Bronner said in a press release. “While not everyone experiences such deep healing, many of our team members have reported dramatic improvements in their lives as a result of ketamine-assisted therapy. We hope to inspire other companies and organizations to also partner with Enthea and offer this benefit to their staff.”
In addition to Dr. Bronner’s, Enthea’s partners include Black Swan Yoga, software company Plexis, and dance community Daybreaker. For these early adopters, working with Enthea is an opportunity to create accessible substitutes for mainstream mental healthcare.
“We have seen too often the repercussions of traditional prescription drugs used to treat mental health and are often ineffective,” Alex Earle, CEO of Black Swan Yoga, said in an email to GreenState. “As an employer, if we can help move the needle even just a little bit to give people an alternative to popping pills but going in and really, truly being conscious and trying this sort of therapy, I think is a huge win.”
Psychedelic therapy has the potential to have a dramatic impact on modern healthcare, but questions persist—particularly around cost. Companies like Enthea are breaking the mold by allowing companies to opt-in to cutting-edge treatments, but widespread adoption may be lightyears away.