Founder of Heroic Hearts Project talks about psychedelics for PTSD with our co founders, Nicholas Levich and Jimmy Nguyen. Jesse Gould designed the non-profit organization as an outlet for veterans to connect with psychedelic healing centers.
They discuss the origin story of the Heroic Hearts Project, how it’s transitioned into what the project is today, and ongoing plans for expansion. The options available for veterans with PTSD are antiquated. They involve prescription medications, but lack any substantial therapeutic support.
Nick and Jimmy will explore veterans resources and the process that Jesse’s team uses to locate and thoroughly vet international psychedelic retreats. Our hosts will delve into Jesse’s process of developing a veteran-specific approach to therapeutic psychedelic support.
What recovery traditions cater most effectively to military trauma and veterans’ warrior mentality? Our hosts and special guest will explore Jesse’s efforts to increase veteran access to community systems and to reduce program costs without impacting professionalism and quality of support.
Ep 20: Founder of Heroic Hearts Project Talks Psychedelics For PTSD
Nick: Welcome to The Psychedelic Passage podcast. My name is Nick Levich. I’m here with my host, Jimmy Nguyen. Thanks for joining us today. This week, we are here with Jesse Gould of Heroic Hearts Project. Jesse is the founder and president of the Heroic Hearts Project, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit pioneering psychedelic therapies for military veterans.
After being deployed as an army ranger in Afghanistan three times, he founded the Heroic Hearts Project in 2017 to spearhead the acceptance and use of ayahuasca therapy as a means of addressing the current mental health crisis among veterans. And this episode is particularly timely, considering that we are coming off the heels of Veterans Day. So, thanks for joining us today, Jesse.
Jesse: Yeah, absolutely. Good to see you both, again, thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to this talk.
Nick: We really, really, appreciate all that you’ve done in your military service, and then also creating an outlet for veterans to be more connected to healing with psychedelics, and I can imagine that somewhat of a tricky place, because veterans are more tied to government benefits and VA things.
And so, when I think about, “Okay, how do we be of greater service to our veterans around mental health?” I know that there’s likely a lot more hurdles and barriers and things like that in order to get folks connected to substances that are still federally illegal.
I’d love to hear a little bit about, I guess, the origins of Heroic Hearts, how that’s transitioned to what you all do today, and how you serve the veteran population with psychedelics.
The Heroic Hearts Project: How it All Started
Jesse: My origin is similar to a lot of other vets that are seeking this right now. I got out of the military service, I had multiple combat deployments to Afghanistan. Generally speaking, when I was getting out, I thought I was good to go, and ready to hit the ground running.
And at first, that was the case, and I found a good job in finance, I was doing well. But some of this trauma, some of these issues caught up to me, I just started experiencing, which, unfortunately, has become a normal checklist for veterans, depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, all sorts of different things.
When I sought help, I just quickly saw how limited the options were, and how antiquated the options were. People at the VA wanted to help but their hands were essentially tied, and it’s become more of a maintenance program of success, getting you on medication and making sure that you don’t do anything rash, not necessarily getting over PTSD.
We have so many veterans right now, that are just on handfuls of medication, and they will be for next few decades, just because that’s where the system is built. And that’s all to understand. So, anyway, I was in that situation.
I chose to go another route, heard about psychedelics at that time and had never done them. But I knew whatever I was doing, and the path I was going down was not tenable, and wouldn’t lead to good things. And so, I took a shot in the dark.
After doing some due diligence, I went to Peru and went to a retreat center that for the most part, I thought I trusted. Fortunately, I was right, and just had this very intense, hard, but profound experience over the course of that week.
And so, from there, just my own experience, and seeing all these amazing stories around me of people healing from a variety of mental health issues, and others that had returned that had shared their stories, it was just very clear that this wasn’t the evil, scary psychedelics that I had grown up to hear about. And there’s something powerful that we probably didn’t understand about it.
In my head, or just where I was at just being surrounded by a lot of people I served with, who were actually struggling or unfortunately lost the battle at that point, it was almost this obligation of like, “Hey, I just stumbled on this thing.
I have no idea what the scale of it is, but at least other people who are in the same situation as I deserved to know that there might be something else out there.” So, they’re not just hitting their head on the same wall.
This was in 2017, not a big timeframe on a year’s schedule, but the psychedelic space, massive change since then. And so, that’s what we want to implement where before really it was hard to research it.
There really wasn’t that much talk, if any about integration and actual programs, and really no preparation and stuff like that. So that’s what we created stuff that I was missing. I was like, “Okay, you’re going to do this very big thing, let’s get you in the right mind frame.”
So, we avoid that bad trip thing so that you understand challenging trips are not bad trips. And also, if you have this profound moment, how do you actually use that to change the course of your life and get into this better state where you have all the tools to maintain that?
Jimmy: Well, so you took your process, and then fill in the gaps and what could enrich that process with more preparation, more integration, more community support, but that’s still what Heroic Hearts primarily does now is, help veterans resource and get themselves down to international retreats, currently, is that right?
Jesse: Yeah. When I was getting out of it, like I said, I stumbled into it, and looked at websites and tried to find forums and see what– coming from a super novice perspective of how do you find a good ayahuasca retreat, because there were none of these, like, established websites then.
They had some guidance on how to prepare for getting into it, but not as much as I think could have been helpful. And then, the aftercare, talk a little bit about integration, but you’re pretty much on your own. So, I knew there was something to it, and I knew I wanted to help connect other veterans to it.
But I knew I could have been served by more support around that time. And also, like, the last thing I want to do is just like, say, like, “Hey, have you heard about this ayahuasca thing?” or, “Have you heard about these psychedelics?” And then have veterans just like, show up in Lima and figure it out themselves, which I knew from the get-go was a disaster.
That’s why we started creating just this container of support– from the very get-go I knew my experience was extremely challenging. So, I knew it wasn’t just a fact of taking the psychedelic. And I already had the notion that this was not necessarily for everybody.
And so that’s how we designed it is like know what you’re getting into. And if it’s the right fit, then make sure you do all the hard work before and afterwards. From then, we started talking with people who were starting to write about some of this integration stuff, and what that looked like, and so we developed our own, specifically for veterans.
Curating a Veteran-Specific Approach to Psychedelic Therapy
Nick: And so is the work that you’re doing around this– obviously, you’re catering to veterans, but is there a different approach when you guys are working with veterans versus the general population?
Jesse: I’d say so. It’s like any community. When you talk to veterans, we come from a similar background and perspectives and all that stuff. As any professional group, you’re going to use jargon, you’re going to use certain terms that’s only inherent to that group, because you come from that same background, it facilitates or that trust dynamic of like, “Hey, I’m helping you do this crazy thing, but I need you to trust me, I need you to trust that safe.
And so having that similar background that, “Hey, I was in the same shoes as you, I know exactly where you’re coming from, I know this might sound a little bit wild, but this is why it might work.”
So, hitting it more of that straight line, for us taking away any access or, not to– everybody has their own thing, but for a veteran, if there’s too much of the woo-woo, then they might be like, “I don’t know what’s going on here?” There’s certain ways of approaching it for different classes.
Same thing, if I’m talking to civilians, if I know the person’s very conservative or religious, I’m going to talk to them differently and present this differently than if I know somebody’s probably like, experienced the full 60s, and are all about it.
There’s different languages we use with different groups. So, that was one of those things, and then also just to relate it to the military experience, you bring that with breathwork, because that’s actually a very important thing.
Determination, discipline, all these words that veterans can relate to, in terms of the actual psychedelic experience, we also have found, especially over the years that certain protocols, certain traditions, seem to be a better fit for trauma, seemed to be a better fit, especially for military trauma.
When we choose it, one of the things we offer whatever the psychedelic experience, ayahuasca has always been the core. We work with a broad variety. One of us will go to the actual center, we’ll go through the protocol, we’ll go through the experience.
One, on an ayahuasca level, you want to have that experience with the healer to make sure it’s a good-fit. It’s a relationship, it shouldn’t be necessarily just transactional, it should be that both want to work with each other.
Having that bond, but then also seeing how the ceremonies run and everything, the protocol, the strength of the aya, all these kinds of things factor into it. There’s a lot of underground spots, moving churches that bounce up in the US.
It’s going to be harder and harder to determine the healer or the facilitator’s experience. The only real way you can do that is actually go through the experience and see how it all plays out.
What Veterans Should Look Out For in a Psychedelic Retreat
Jimmy: What are some of the things that you look for? It sounds like when you go down before you bring a group of veterans out to these psychedelic retreats. Seems like you scattered out, you’re looking into the relationship with the healer, or the main folks there, you’re seeing how they do things.
What are some of the things that you look for that help you indicate? Okay, this retreat center feels right for my group of veterans I’m bringing down versus maybe some others who don’t quite fit the bill.
Jesse: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the first case is just safety and comfortability. We are working with a certain group and general trauma. And so, especially for their first experience, we’re looking for that balance, it can be a little bit rustic, but I’m not trying to have them fight off jungle critters, and all this kind of stuff, there’s the balance.
I mean, with ayahuasca, it’s very important. If you’re working with this, it’s a relationship you want, you generally will go through an experience, a ceremony with the healer, and make sure it’s a good fit for both them and you. And you want to make sure, especially since we’re working with a very intense group.
And so I want to make sure that everybody’s comfortable there. But psychedelics in general, just going there and seeing how well the program is run, what the safety precautions are, emergency precautions, what the facilities look like, what the person can expect.
And then actually in the ceremony, myself, or somebody on our team will actually go through the ceremony. One, like I said, for the relationship with a healer, but two, just to see how they go about it, what their protocols are, how they keep control over the situation, how from ayahuasca or traditional perspective, they moved from the energy, the strength of the ayahuasca.
As this gets more popular, there’s a lot of places popping up in the US, still generally underground. But there’s a lot of new healers, so it can be increasingly hard to determine how much experience they have. Experience is so important.
Generally speaking, the ayahuasca does the heavy lifting, and somebody can just give you 5-MeO and you’re like, “Oh, you’re an amazing healer.” But the times when some real stuff comes out, and some real darkness or real trauma comes out, and the person doesn’t know what they’re doing, and that can be pretty dangerous.
And so that’s why we’ve had it because I’ve been somewhere– they had good intentions, but they really just didn’t have control over the whole room and it was readily apparent when you went through it.
Jimmy: Especially when everybody’s going through their big moment at the same time. And you’re like, “Oh, man, I’ll just break loose in here.”
Jesse: Exactly, and that’s the last thing you want, especially with these veterans where it can be very physical. And if they don’t have the experience in handling that then that adds extra risk so we don’t want– and then that’s going to be the challenge going forward with psychedelics.
In terms of protocol, again, I’ll focus on ayahuasca. We do a variety of psychedelics, but it’s always been the core. There are tons of traditions across the Amazon, like Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica. Well, not Costa Rica indigenously, but all the Amazonian region, Peru, Ecuador.
What we found with veterans and this is not a– this is better than that. It’s just we found for veterans to be particularly potent when they go into it. Kind of more of the Peruvian style where it tends to be more of a personal deep dive where you do a bigger dose, bigger ceremony, the healer will be singing, but you’re more doing your inward journey unless you’re really struggling and need help. And then we have the talk circles afterward.
There’s other ayahuasca traditions that tend to be more community oriented. Let’s say on the religious side, like Santo Daime or UDV, and those tend to be more procession, ceremony, drinking multiple cups, still do some inward work, but not to the same intensity.
So that’s why we’ve focused more on that with the veterans because they need to do that deep dive, they need those friction points, those strong ceremonies to get past, these very strong infrastructure, the compartmentalization that they’ve built over the past, sometimes decades. And so having those bigger experiences is what helps them see the light, for lack of a better term.
Jimmy: Yeah, I’ve never been on an international retreat myself, but from my friends and colleagues who talk about the different, I guess, approaches to medicine work, depending on the country, that you’re in, the culture that you’re in, the specific lineage and practice.
A lot of my friends who have come back from South America, and specifically Peruvian retreats, there’s this warrior approach to it, like, sit down, drink the medicine, do your work, go internal,
Nick: Stay on your mat.
Jimmy: Stay on your mat, and get to it. And that to a degree makes sense what you’re describing, because you’re serving warriors, modern-day warriors. And so, using some of the really amazing values from that, like that discipline, loyalty, that work ethic in a way that then turns into their own healing.
I think that’s really amazing. And is it fair to say that as you bring groups down there, are there folks in your group who also serve as sitters as well? Or is it all sitters through the particular retreat center?
Jesse: Little bit both. We’ve been doing this for a while, so we’ve been able to develop certain relationships and customize our programs, so they’re probably going to look a little bit different from a public open forum.
And so generally, we keep it all veterans, or at least all our staff, sometimes we’ll have other people there that are part of our team that are not necessarily veterans, but are in the same community. But generally, it’s about 10 to 12 small groups of veterans, and then we’ll always have at least an HHP facilitator there, that way has that continuity.
And that way, everybody’s nervous, we do about four to six weeks of prep work. And even with that, leading up to it, everybody’s going to be apprehensive because they know they’re going to face some serious stuff. And so just having that common face, they know we’re not just throwing them to Peru to get mugged, and harvest origins and stuff like that. [laughter]
Jesse: To meet that person there, the person will help them go there. And then that person can also be that groundwork, that helps with them, the comfortability, quality control, all that and just keeps us in the midst of it.
So, I’ll go every once in a while, I’ll be the facilitator, clean the puke buckets. And everybody on my team has facilitated at least once or a few times. Everybody on our team has had their own medicine work.
There are many parts of dealing with this, and that’s why I like the ayahuasca traditions because it teaches this respect, it teaches the build-up, the intention, the appreciation, but also, even though we’re this organization and service, there are still other ways to serve and be on the ground level. So, being there and actually helping others, I think it’s an important part of this work to stay grounded in what we’re doing.
Jimmy: Yeah. I know we’re talking about this theme of service. And there is a certain level of service when you’re cleaning up the puke bucket of your friend or colleague or that person in circle with you. It’s a whole nother level of service.
Nick: Jimmy and I have cleaned up our fair share of puke buckets over the years.
Jimmy: That’s for sure.
Jesse: Important work.
Jesse: But it’s also like, that’s what I found is like, originally, I was going to the retreats, and one, just the travel was really hard, especially running this nonprofit. But two, I was the only one that was seeing the change, I was the only one seeing the difference.
I wanted more of my team and more veterans, in general, to want to have that experience, but also have that training just because I think we have an important part in this space. But we’re not going to be like the Medicare of psychedelics. This is going to be community-based branch systems.
And so I want more veterans to go through our program to be comfortable in serving others, or at least helping out by holding space for others. So, I think that’s an important teaching to really expand this message. So, it’s not just relying on us, so how many we can serve on a yearly basis.
Jimmy: Yeah, I think that’s really remarkable. Nick, I know you were going to say something. I just want to comment real quick that you, as one human, have created such an amazing potential for change here. And then also here and what you’re saying that you’re recognizing, “Oh, but I’m one human, I can only do so much.”
And so, I really hear this sharing of the craft and of the gift and of the container that you’ve created so that you can support more folks. And that’s just really ringing loudly for me. And I just wanted to comment on that. But, Nick, I know you were about to ask something.
Challenges & Future Plans for The Heroic Hearts Project
Nick: Well, I mean, I have two questions. But coming off the heels of what you just said, Jim, I’m curious, one of the things that we were talking about offline before we jumped into our episode today is just how the demand for your services at Heroic Hearts always tends to outweigh the supply. And I’m curious, what is the challenge of scaling this for you? What’s preventing more veterans from having access to this?
Jesse: Scaling comes on a few levels. I mean, at the core of it, as you guys can probably attest to is money. And so if you have all sorts of money, your scalability goes up, you can hire the people, you can get more of their treats. I mean, as a nonprofit, we’ve always had to have that challenge, especially since we’re on such a cutting edge of the thing.
It can be very hard to explain it to even the psychedelic space, people who are true believers, oftentimes have a hard time moving past clinical trials. Even for them, from our perspective, it’s not like we’re trying to push the envelope in that way. But it’s just absolutely necessary.
These people we’re serving don’t have the luxury of waiting for a clinical trial in five years, they desperately need help. And so that’s what we’re trying to create] that container where, “Hey, if you’re going to do this, let’s make sure it’s safe, let’s make sure it has support.”
But it’s still a very hard thing, and I understand why. So, funding. Just having that to build the infrastructure, scalability, kind of in that phase right now, scaling. Beyond that, there’s infrastructure and just the very nature of it. So, infrastructure, even what you guys are doing, we’ve all had to create this from nothing. We’re all figuring out what the psychedelic space looks like, and what’s missing.
And within that, there’s no traditional levels of support given the legality of the substances. And so essentially, we have all in our own little corners had to build this from scratch just because of the nervousness and stigmas.
Jesse: And so for us, we’re essentially helping veterans and providing all the support outside of the traditional mental health support that is already robust and supportive, and we’ve had to piece it together with the money we have and do the best that we can, which I think’s been pretty good.
But that’s a hard thing to do, if you understand how complex these sorts of systems are. And then lastly, this is what we’ve been talking about and where our eyes are looking in the next five years. It’s not feasible for us–This is a 10,000, if not 100,000 veteran scale.
And that’s not even considering the rest of the community. This is a massive problem, just in the veteran community alone in those numbers. And it’s not feasible for us to send 10,000 veterans to Peru. One monetarily, that’d be extremely expensive.
Two, sustainability in terms of environmental impacts, in terms of the actual healers, the number of healers and exhausting them and just flooding that system with this kind of stuff. It’s just not feasible.
And so that’s why we’re going to always do what we do and keep that route, keep that core. And for those that want to do the deep dive in the Amazon will have that connection. But the way that we scale this is, what does this look like in the US, community-based systems in the US?
How do we increase access safely? How do we lower costs without impacting the experience and impacting professionalism? And then how do we decentralize it? Make sure there’s not somebody up charging it or all this kind of stuff. You use the economies of scale without the add-on price tag that tends to happen.
So, that’s what we’re experimenting with and piloting right now. Especially with new changes in Oregon, and Colorado, it will help us or allow us to experiment like that, for instance, first off, a veteran’s psilocybin circle, what does that look like in Oregon? Can I still have a practitioner there?
But it doesn’t need to be that one on one. We can do group therapy, we can have safety checks, we can have other support around it, breathwork, mindfulness, but a veteran can know so that they can safely go to this spot and be supported by other veterans, and get that deep dive in that healing. And then they can continue to be supported by that group outside of a psychedelic context.
And then they’re not having to spend thousands, maybe a couple hundred to support the community system. But then they always know that they have that right. And so, that’s what we’re looking at of the group dynamic community, dynamic, modalities here in the US, and figuring out what’s the best way for us to support it.
Not that we’re building a shop here, and this is real cards only, but that we can do the bigger scale things, in terms of providing coaching intake, all these things that are a little bit harder, but then allow the community to develop itself.
Psychedelics & Federal Support Versus State-Level Programming
Jimmy: Yeah, one of the things I’m hearing of what you’re sharing is that veterans likely benefit from a larger ongoing container of support. You were saying, like four to six weeks of prep, you obviously have the ceremony or retreat, and then I imagined that after the ceremony or after experience integration is really, really important.
Especially for dealing with a lot of things, like suicidality among veterans, and folks who are a little bit more at risk, I would say, I’m hearing that that longer container. It’s funny because even with the state legislation, it’s just still tricky because there’s this whole federal government part in it.
I see that there’s a few different levels. There’s like the cultural acceptance among the veteran community, kind of like what you were saying in your story. This isn’t some devil medicine or something that everybody was taught.
And then there’s also like, the support resources around veterans, including, like– I remember this with cannabis, when there were a lot of veterans with cannabis started in Colorado, where they were going out and seeking like relief from chronic pain and anxiety and some of these things, there were people losing their VA benefits left and right, if they would to test hot on a drug test or something like that.
So, I don’t know. Are you feeling certain organizations like the VA and things are cracking down on this stuff? Do you feel like they’re somewhat turning up like a blind eye towards this type of work? I’d love to hear your take on the intersection of federal support versus state-level programming around psychedelics?
Jesse: So, the VA, it’s tricky, just because a VA almost operates like a bunch of different hospitals. There is obviously the federal side of it, but each VA can be vastly different. What I will say is within the VA, there are a ton of great people who are actively trying to change it from within and trying to utilize the systems that are there to make those changes.
And there are some studies like Christopher in Oregon, he’s doing some studies with psilocybin I believe, and veterans, Rachel Yehuda, the Bronx VA, has actually started working with MDMA with veterans there, there’s different ketamine dynamics.
And so, it is going I mean, but at the same extent, like you said, the hands are tied, even with cannabis, like the VA in Canada can essentially recompensate veterans for cannabis, and we’re still making people lose their benefits. I think psychedelics, there’s a lot of veterans going and it’s much harder to test for psychedelics unless they actively say like, “Hey, I need this.”
Jesse: It’s much harder for them to get caught in that dynamic. But there are people with security clearances or jobs that it’s very risky for them. That’s hard for us too, because we want to help these people, but then losing your job or your financial ability is traumatizing in itself. So, it’s this risky spot.
So, I mean, the hard part is, though, or the benefit, I guess the silver lining is we– our medical system is not prepared. We don’t have enough people who are trained to do psychedelics, and we don’t know what it looks like. I mean, you’re already seeing some of the hardships in Oregon of how this rolls out.
The psychedelic in the traditional mental health system doesn’t easily mesh together. And so having it in these States first, I think will be a good test case where we can more fluidly roll out once it does become federally legal or rescheduled or what have you. So, at least I do think there is an opportunity here to know better because if it was nothing to everything, I think that in itself would be somewhat of a disaster.
Jesse: You know MDMA would be an easy fluid movement. But something like a hallucinogenic, like psilocybin, doesn’t work easily with our system, with our insurance system, with our care system, with our theories on mental health, our current theories, or at least the ones that are being used. So, that’s a silver lining.
And having these localized spots, and people within the VA slowly pushing, it puts more pressure on the federal side, but the federal side is always going to be the slowest moving because they don’t have to move.
They can avoid the conversation, they can kick the can, as long as they do the minimal work and say, “Hey, we’re looking into this.” And so at least this builds pressure and it also normalizes it.
To your cannabis point, when cannabis first came to legalize in Denver, I remember hearing people like, “Denver’s going to collapse because of this evil cannabis.” Like, all sorts of bad things are going to happen, and it’s going to be a disaster.
And maybe more people smoke or more people admit they smoke, but it’s pretty much been business as usual with the added benefit of a tremendous amount of tax revenue. So, I think the normalization that can happen of like, this is not going to cause the downfall of civilization as we know it, it’s actually going to be probably pretty normal with people actually gaining access to effective mental health.
So, I think these are important points. Psychedelics have actually moved pretty fast on a lifetime scale, we just want it to move faster to know its effectiveness, but it does still need to make that process. It does tell me to go through the normal steps, of acceptance and understanding.
Jimmy: Yeah, I mean, even to your point about the MDMA clinical trials, that is specifically in conjunction with therapy, which is really interesting, because then the FDA is governing those clinical trials, but the FDA isn’t the governing board for therapy.
And so even then that highlights that juxtaposition of what you’re talking about and how some are a lot of psychedelic work doesn’t mesh exactly one to one for the mental health world.
And shout out to all of the therapists and psychiatrists who are really supportive of psychedelics in a more informal setting, like I’ve worked with some veterans, myself, and some of them have been like, “Yeah, I’ve been really open and disclosing to my, VA assign therapists,” and they’re like, “I can’t talk about this, we didn’t have this conversation,” but they’ve given that wink and that– [crosstalk] [laughs]
Nick: I got to jump in here because one of the clients that I sat with works for the VA, she’s an addiction doctor at the VA, and that was one of her big things. She was like, “I’m having clients come to me, and tell me that, “Hey, I started micro-dosing,” or, “Hey, I’m exploring a ceremony,” and she wanted to understand firsthand what was going on.
And so, she wanted to do a journey for herself, not only to better serve her clients at the VA but also to work through her own internal, healing process. To your point about it coming from within, we’re certainly seeing that on our end as well.
Upcoming Projects For Heroic Hearts
Jimmy: Mm, that’s awesome. Jesse, what are some things that Heroic Hearts that you want to highlight? Any projects, anything coming up? I know that y’all just released a documentary last week. Do you want to tell our audience a little bit about some of those things?
Jimmy: Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, the documentary just premiered on Friday, it’s a mini-doc, so it’s only 18 minutes. So, easy to digest, but essentially, a long time coming. Started in 2020, I went down to Peru with a normal group of veterans, but also we had some professional athletes. Some hockey player, Daniel Carcillo, who’s become known in the space.
And just an interesting mesh, I came to know them. But found that a lot of people from different walks of life have that same spirit, even though they have different trauma, the veterans and these professional athletes had a lot of similarities, and the personalities mesh really well. So, just an interesting thing.
And then also provide that expansion for other groups. We’re still focused on veterans and that’s where our funding goes. But sometimes we try to bring in other people just to expand the message and expand the support.
So, we also had some filmmakers Brandon Boulay and Chris Savage there. So, they documented it and took some amazing photos, and made this little documentary. Definitely check it out. Easy to watch.
And then we’re working with the University of Texas in Austin. The medical school. So the first psychedelic center in Texas, which is huge in its own right. And so, we’re doing a three-part study with them. The first part Gold Star Wives, so wives that lost service members either in combat or to suicide, they will be going through psilocybin retreats.
And then we’ll check the effects on depression, combat veterans going to ayahuasca. And then the third part is special ops veterans going to Ibogaine with veterans with head trauma. So, we’re in the midst of recruiting for the Gold Star Wives.
So, if you are a spouse that has lost a loved one, or you know one, please let us know. We’re actively looking for candidates for that pool. But, yeah, beyond that, like I said, our big thing is wrapping up this year, we had a very successful year, we served about 180.
I’ll need to double check the count at the end of the year. Veterans over the course of it as well as spouses and some other groups, working with the whole project to support spouses of the military members so that they can also go to the retreats.
And then next year, in the following years, like I said, it’s really continuing what we’re doing, but what does this community piece look like? What do psychedelics in the US look like? And so that’s the biggest thing of how we scale this, how we make it sustainable and accessible to everybody.
Nick: Beautiful, anything else on your end, Jim? I thought you were going to say something.
Jimmy: Yeah, well, the first question, how do people find you, Jesse, can you plug your website, socials, anything that you have, or folks can find you, and then we’ll put some links in our show description for the YouTube video and things like that.
Jesse: Yeah, heroicheartsproject.org is the website. If you’re a veteran, the applications there that you can go to. There’s also a lot of information, videos, and all that sort of stuff. Our main social media is on Instagram @heroicheartsproject. We have Facebook and Twitter. But the main updates we do on Instagram. So, yeah, sign up, and reach out. And if you have any questions or want help, then please sign up for it.
Jimmy: Yeah, thank you for that. And the last thing I just wanted to share was just some admiration for you, Jesse. I can tell that a lot of the things that you go through on the day-to-day are probably a lot in parallel to what Nick and I go through as far as not having a roadmap.
Not having a lot of mentors, and folks, like, ask questions, and you’re building this from scratch, and I think that you’re just a badass, man. I really mean that. I think there’s something to be said about, not only your personal journey, and deciding to face that and stare straight in the eye, but also do so in support.
And with help, and with the support of the plant medicine. That’s really remarkable. And then sharing that gift. I just have a lot of respect for you, Jesse. So, thank you for sharing your time here with us as well. It means a lot to me. And I’d venture for Nick too.
Nick: Yeah. I mean, anyone that’s willing to basically dedicate their lives to helping others in a way where there is no proven model or way forward, and we’re all just out here figuring it out. I mean, we’re in the same lane, only we cater to civilians, and we serve all walks but it’s not easy to maintain a really high quality of care as you scale.
And that’s something that you had touched on earlier. We find the same thing in our work as well. When there are humans and livelihoods involved, it takes a lot of work and effort to maintain that really high, touch point, and high quality of care as you expand.
Jesse: I appreciate it. Obviously, respect goes both ways. We’re all pieces in this puzzle and it takes all of us to move forward in our own little microcosm. So, appreciate you guys for as long as I have and the work you guys are doing, absolutely.
Nick: Cool. Thanks, Jesse. We appreciate you having you on today. That brings us to the end of our episode for today. You can download episodes of the Psychedelic Passage podcast as well as stream them all on Apple Podcast, Amazon, Spotify, IHeartRadio, or wherever else you may stream your podcast. If you liked the show, please rate and review us, and we look forward to seeing you guys next week.
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