$1M Grant For Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Training Program for Social Workers & Nurses at Columbia University & University of Pennsylvania

July 29, 2022

Two schools at major U.S. universities are developing a collaborative initiative to educate social workers and nurses about psychedelic-assisted therapy in anticipation of FDA approval of this type of treatment. This effort will help improve access to affordable, safe treatment facilitated by a large workforce of highly qualified practitioners.

The project is a new collaboration between the Columbia University School of Social Work (CSSW) and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, and will be co-funded by grants from the Joe & Sandy Samberg Foundation and the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation totaling $1 million.

The grants will fund the development of an educational training curriculum which will be piloted at CSSW and Penn Nursing with plans to expand to Columbia School of Nursing and Penn School of Social Policy & Practice. In addition to offering the curriculum to enrolled students, there are plans for curriculum targeting post-graduate nurses and social workers. Upon successful implementation, the curricula will be made available at little or no cost for other institutions to adopt.

“The schools of social work and nursing at Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania are nationally recognized for our exceptional degree programs and we look forward to preparing our graduates to lead in the provision of psychedelic therapy,” said Heidi Allen, MSW, PhD, Associate Dean for Research and Associate Professor at Columbia School of Social Work. The curriculum at CSSW and Penn Nursing will offer associated practicums in psychedelic research, ketamine clinics, and clinical settings as psychedelic therapies are approved by the FDA.

There are currently several randomized clinical trials consistent with the US Food and Drug Administration registration processes and have been granted fast-track status for their demonstrated efficacy across a range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorders, end-of-life distress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders.

“Psychedelic-assisted therapy is a promising new treatment for debilitating mental health conditions, but safely providing it to patients requires specialized training” said Alexandra Cohen, President, Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation. “We are pleased to support these new training programs for social workers and nurses, so they are well-equipped to provide safe and accessible psychedelic-assisted therapy.”

Building from best practices developed by leaders in psychedelic-assisted therapy and research, the long-term goal of the project is to help meet future demand for psychedelic therapies with a highly trained, accessible, affordable, and diverse workforce. Sandy Samberg, RN, CPNP, Penn Nursing Alumna and Joe & Sandy Samberg Foundation Director said, “Social workers and nurses are two of the largest and most diverse healthcare providers in the U.S. With their complementary skill sets, they are uniquely positioned to work collaboratively and will help minimize the anticipated bottleneck of trained practitioners.”

“If the goals are quality, inclusivity, and accessibility, social work and nursing are the right professions to help bring psychedelic therapy to scale,” said Allen of the program’s potential impact on mental health care accessibility.

The use of psychedelics in mental health care has recently garnered more media attention, most notably with the release of Michael Pollan’s 2018 book How to Change Your Mind (Penguin Random House), and the 2022 Netflix documentary of the same name. As this new paradigm for mental health treatment comes to market, there is significant excitement about the potential to reduce suffering and improve quality of life for millions of people.

Social workers, nurses, and others who are interested in learning more about psychedelic-assisted treatment can sign up for a mailing list and online learning series here. Read more about the learning series here.

About the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation

The Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation is committed to inspiring philanthropy and community service by creating awareness, offering guidance, and leading by example to show the world what giving can do. The Foundation’s grants support nonprofit organizations based in the United States that either help people in need or solve complex problems. The Foundation also spearheads grassroots campaigns to encourage others to give. For more information, visit www.steveandalex.org.

About the Joe & Sandy Samberg Foundation

The Joe & Sandy Samberg Foundation is committed to supporting and empowering individuals, families and communities through funding non-profit organizations in select program areas. The primary focus is on assisting the underserved throughout the lifespan – from physical & mental health, to food security, education and employment. Joe & Sandy approach their role in philanthropy as lifelong learners and with an entrepreneurial spirit and collaborative ethos. Given their New York roots, they have a special interest in New York-based charities.