ECONOMY, HEALTH CARE

Salem gets its first psilocybin service center

Salem now has its first psilocybin service center where clients can legally experience psychedelic mushrooms in a comfortable environment while drawing on chalkboards, listening to music, or journaling, all under the supervision of an experienced facilitator. 

The new clinic at 2585 State St., which is called The Psilocybin Center, started taking clients in March. The center provides a specifically tailored psychedelic experience for people interested in alternative forms of medicine, spiritual growth, and self-exploration.

Large group sessions of up to 25 people range from around $100 to $150 per person while individual or private group sessions start at around $600. 

A psilocybin therapy group session room at Salem’s first psilocybin service center (Joe Siess/Salem Reporter)

The center’s operators, husband and wife Sammy Kahuk and Dina Odeh, are believers in the positive effects of psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, on mental health. Odeh, the center’s owner, and Kahuk, who owns a dispensary next door to the center called Hall of Strains Cannabis, came to Oregon from Florida to pursue their shared passion for alternative medicines.

There’s already a one to two week wait for a session, and the center has clients from across the U.S. and countries like Japan, the U.K., New Zealand and Lebanon. 

While there is a lot of interest in the center from out-of-state clients, the center does its best to prioritize Salem locals, including charging them less for sessions. 

“We want to make it as accessible as possible for everyone around us. Especially the locals,” Odeh said. “We are getting people who are actually coming back to us in a few weeks saying the anxiety is gone, or they are feeling a lot better than how they were … One of the main concerns people have is wanting to deal with mental health.”  

When Oregon voters in 2020 approved a ballot measure legalizing the supervised use of psilocybin, the law said services would be open to all adults, with no prescription or specific medical condition required.

Many clients at the center are first time users who were referred by mental health professionals, and the process begins with an onboarding call to determine why the client is seeking out psilocybin and how the client wants to experience it.

Providing an alternative mental health resource in Salem was a big motivation behind opening the center, Kahuk and Odeh said. The couple was in the CBD business in Florida before coming to Oregon. Kahuk said he saw firsthand how transformative alternative methods could be on people’s lives, and then decided to pursue making an impact on people’s wellbeing first with cannabis, and now psilocybin. 

“Mental health is so important. It is one of those things that up until recently people didn’t talk about,” Kahuk said. “You see how the pharmaceuticals literally destroy the chemical makeup of your brain, or alter it to a point that it is hard to function without the drugs. Then we have something that can be a natural alternative, that is pretty big for us.” 

Oregon now has 25 licensed service centers, 306 psilocybin facilitators, nine manufacturers, and two laboratories according to the OHA’s Oregon Psilocybin Services licensee directory.

Salem is one of the few locations in the mid-Willamette Valley where psilocybin centers can operate. Many other cities, including Keizer, as well as unincorporated Marion and Polk counties, banned psilocybin businesses following legalization.

Kahuk and Odeh are currently in the process of licensing a second psilocybin service center on Southeast Commercial Street, and are eager to make an impact on an industry considered a new frontier. 

State law requires facilitators be present for psilocybin administration. Facilitators must get a state license and take an approved training course, but are not required to be medical or mental health professionals.   

“In my opinion it is worth it because me, myself, I don’t think I would take mushrooms again in my life without having a facilitator there. Because there is that safety net,” said Kahuk, who is a licensed facilitator. “If I’m taking mushrooms by myself … there’s a part of me that is going to be scared … That is one of the biggest contributors to having a good session, is to take away the fear. Or the anxiety.” 

Facilitators are there to make sure clients follow state law, including not leaving the center until the session is complete, but their purpose isn’t to influence people’s decisions during the session.

“Our job is to listen,” Kahuk said.”It is good for us to stay in our lane and let people go through their natural journey themselves.” 

Kahuk and Odeh said clients will often get very personal during sessions and tell them their entire life stories. Other times, they will sit in silence listening to music, draw on chalkboards, or write down their thoughts in journals. The session rooms are also decked out with psychedelic art, plush armchairs, and sound and light systems that can be tailored to one’s liking.  

A psilocybin therapy group session room at Salem’s first psilocybin service center (Joe Siess/Salem Reporter)

The center has two other licensed facilitators: Dr. Leslie Drapiza, a board-certified family medicine physician, and Carrie McMullin, a psychologist. 

After the session, the center will check up on its clients within 72 hours to make sure they are readjusting after their experience. Clients are also required to set up transportation to and from the center, and the center will provide transportation for Salem residents if needed. 

After a session “People are open. They can be easily influenced. They can be extremely emotional after, and after this experience we don’t want to throw them in a car with a stranger,” Kahuk said.  

The high cost of the sessions is due to high overhead costs, including tens of thousands of dollars in annual licensing fees, Kahuk said. 

The state program is required to be self-sustaining, meaning the licensing fees charged need to cover the Oregon Health Authority’s costs for regulating the psilocybin program.

Psilocybin remains illegal federally and health insurance generally won’t cover the cost of a session.

Pricing fluctuates based on the dosage provided, and the length of the session. The center is only allowed to administer 50 milligrams of psilocybin per client per day, and adheres to strict protocol set by the Oregon Health Authority.  

Kahuk said he and his colleagues are experienced with psychedelics and know what makes for a good environment. 

“We are trying to make it chill as an experience. If we were going through a journey how we would want it to be. And we all have experience with psychedelics, so it is not like we are these business people coming in with our suits and ties,” Kahuk said. “We know how we’d want the experience to be for ourselves.”

Contact reporter Joe Siess: [email protected] or 503-335-7790.

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Joe Siess is a reporter for Salem Reporter. Joe joined Salem Reporter in 2024 and primarily covers city and county government but loves surprises. Joe previously reported for the Redmond Spokesman, the Bulletin in Bend, Klamath Falls Herald and News and the Malheur Enterprise. He was born in Independence, MO, where the Oregon Trail officially starts, and grew up in the Kansas City area.