Bryan Hubbard, who wanted Ky. to help finance research into psychedelic for drug treatment, takes his cause to State of Ohio

Kentucky Health News 
The man who wanted Kentucky to use some of its opioid-settlement money for research that could lead to legalizing a psychedelic drug to treat addiction, but lost his job when a new attorney general was elected last fall, is taking his cause to the State of Ohio.“Bryan Hubbard, former executive director of the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission, has signed a contract with the State of Ohio,” report Alex Acquisto and Austin Horn of the Lexington Herald-Leader. “His job: To help build public-private partnerships for potential projects ‘related to the treatment of traumatic brain Injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and other related and unrelated mental-health and substance-use conditions,’ according to a spokesperson in the office of Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague. . . . Hubbard will be paid $45,000 for his independent contracting services, according to his contract, which was reviewed by the Herald-Leader.”
Brittany Halpin, Prague’s press secretary, told the newspaper in an email, “In part, the work is set to assist the treasurer’s office with determining the feasibility of potential solutions with ResultsOhio and other pay-for-success models.” ResultsOhio uses public and private funding to address Ohio’s “most pressing social and public health challenges,” according to the treasurer’s website.
Hubbard told the Herald-Leader that as he works with the state to “deliver novel treatment access and research opportunities for veterans and opioid dependent individuals,” he is partnering with an Ohio-based foundation to “create the framework for ibogaine clinical trials in Ohio.”
Ibogaine is a psychedelic derived from the African iboga plant. It is illegal everywhere except Mexico and New Zealand and has been reported to reduce or eliminate drug-withdawal symptoms while posing risks to the heart. Hubbard wanted the Kentucky commission to spend $42 million, 5 percent of what the state had received in lawsuit settlements from drug makers and distributors, to help fund research that could lead to legalization of the drug as a treatment for addiction.
Hubbard’s boss was then-Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who countenanced Hubbard’s advocacy but did not endorse it outright as he ran for governor. He was succeeded by Russell Coleman, a former U.S. attorney who was not keen on ibogaine or Hubbard, and asked him to resign.
Hubbard told the Herald-Leader that he was “saddened that a lack of courage and vision from [Coleman] has deprived Kentucky of its opportunity to lead the nation in the development of ibogaine’s revolutionary therapeutic potentials. However, I am strongly encouraged that genuine leaders exist across the river to ensure that ibogaine’s promise has an opportunity to be fulfilled for all who may choose to seek it.” Coleman’s office did not respond to emailed questions from the Herald-Leader.
Hubbard is part of a broader ibogaine effort. Last week, the REID (Reaching Everyone in Distress) Foundation announced that he would “research and raise awareness for emerging therapies such as ibogaine as potential breakthrough treatments for PTSD and opioid addiction in Ohio.”
“The REID Foundation was created by Rex Elsass, who lost his son to addiction in 2019,” the Herald-Leader reports. “Elsass is also one of the nation’s premier Republican operatives. In 2016, GQ magazine dubbed him “The Most Powerful Man in the GOP (And You’ve Never Heard Of Him).” His political media and consulting firm is called The Strategy Group. Elsass has been close to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, serving as a key adviser in Paul’s 2016 bid for president. As senator, Paul has spearheaded efforts into seeking alternative therapies to treat addiction. A donor with close connections to Paul, Jeff Yass, was the primary funder of outside groups” that helped Cameron’s challenge to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. “Elsass’ political firm has performed work for those groups.”
Yass’ investment firm “has some interest in bio-pharmaceutical companies with a focus on psychedelic addiction treatments like ibogaine,” the Herald-Leader notes. “Elsass’ advocacy for ibogaine can be traced back to Hubbard’s time in Kentucky.” He did that at an opioid-commission meeting, and “a former executive assistant at his political operation started a group called the Kentucky Ibogaine Initiative. Elsass and the current president of The Strategy Group, Ryan Rodgers, are still listed as directors” with the Kentucky secretary of state.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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