The Vail Health Behavioral Health Innovation Center (BHIC) is a collaboration between Vail Health and University of Wisconsin-Madison. These leaders in the study of novel behavioral health interventions will use the Innovation Center to enhance behavioral health care for patients in Eagle County and beyond. Led by Director of the Vail Health Behavioral Health Innovation Center Dr. Charles Raison and with the support of a transformative donation from Mike and Mary Sue Shannon, Vail Health is committed to making the Innovation Center a world-class destination for behavioral health research, treatment and education.
The Vail Health Behavioral Health Innovation Center resembles academic medical centers and research universities. Collaborating with researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison on initial studies focused on basic science and preclinical investigations, future collaborations are envisioned with other institutions.

Lecture Series

Novel Approaches to Behavioral Health Innovation is a monthly lecture series offered through Vail Health Behavioral Health Innovation Center and University of Wisconsin-Madison. The series features innovative leaders in behavioral health treatment and research and offers continuing education credit for mental health professionals. We encourage anyone interested in the topics to participate and learn.


Upcoming Lectures

Session 4  |  October 5, 2023  |  12:00 - 1:00PM MST  |  ZOOM (Online)
Novel Approaches to Behavioral Health Innovation: Psychedelics as Novel Treatments for Depression: Yes, They Work, But How Will They Work

Presented by Charles Raison, M.D.
Psychedelic compounds—long stigmatized—have re-emerged in the last decade as the most promising new mental health treatments in a generation. An ever-growing outpouring of studies demonstrate that various psychedelics benefit a range of psychiatric conditions, including major depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Among the classic psychedelics, the evidence of benefit is strongest for psilocybin—the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms—as a novel treatment for depression.

This talk will focus on psilocybin and depression, and explore key questions for psilocybin to be optimally deployed. Given the intense clinical need, public interest and clinical availability of psilocybin in the next half decade (via FDA approval or state level legalization), gaining an understanding of the questions below will be essential:
  1. Are certain conditions more responsive to psychedelics than others? 
  2. Are some psychedelics better for one condition than another?
  3. How can a drug that’s only in the body for a few hours produce therapeutic benefits that last for weeks to months (or longer)?
  4. Do the therapeutic effects of psychedelics result primarily from the psychological impact of the psychedelic “trip” or from the drugs’ direct neurobiological effects?
  5. If the psychological effects of the psychedelic experience do contribute to long-term benefit, can the impact of the experience be heightened in ways that will extend the benefits of each dosing session?
  6. Do psychedelics pose risks that mental health clinicians may not be prepared to recognize and resolve?


Past Lectures

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Initially, three studies will be conducted:
  • CHILL*D Study (“Cold and Heat Investigation to Lower Levels of Depression”) will explore ways to optimize the proven benefits of hyperthermia for depression, including whether adding cold to heat will improve outcomes and whether hyperthermia can be effectively combined with standard antidepressants.  
  • The RECAP Follow-Up Study, which will be conducted at UW–Madison, will use model systems to develop and optimize neuroscience techniques for assessing the effects of psilocybin on the brain in context of mental health disorders. Results of this work will inform the subsequent OPT-IN Study.
  • The OPT-IN Study (Optimizing Psilocybin), which will be conducted at Vail Health BHIC, will examine novel ways to enhance the impact of psilocybin on depression and anxiety via co-administration of non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation. It will also assess the impact of psilocybin on real-world social behavior and will use advanced strategies to better understand the risks and benefits of psilocybin use in a legalized setting, such as Colorado.

Innovation Center Leadership

Vail Health Behavioral Health Innovation Center Director Charles Raison, MD is a professor of human ecology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with appointments in the School of Medicine and Public Health and the School of Human Ecology. Dr. Raison’s research focuses on the examination of novel mechanisms involved in the development and treatment of major depression and other stress-related emotional and physical conditions. In pursuit of improved treatments for mental illness, Dr. Raison has taken a leadership role in developing and overseeing studies that—if positive—will support FDA approval of the psychedelic agent psilocybin as a novel treatment for major depression. Dr. Raison has been named one of the world’s most influential researchers by Web of Science, based on his work being cited approximately 30,000 times. He received the Raymond Pearl Memorial Award from the Human Biology Association “in recognition of his contributions to our understanding of evolutionary biocultural origins of mental health and illness.”
Program Administrator Christina J. Sauder oversees the administrative and regulatory aspects of Dr. Raison’s psychedelic studies at UW-Madison and collaborative whole body hyperthermia studies. She works with “on-the-ground” personnel in Vail to bring clinical operations and regulatory expertise to support psychedelic/consciousness research in Vail Health Behavioral Health Innovation Center-based studies.

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