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Community Highlights: Meet Kevin Nicholson of Ketamine Wellness Centers

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kevin Nicholson.

Hi Kevin, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I’m often asked how exactly does a critical care nurse in Calgary Canada end up as the CEO of the largest and most respected ketamine provider in the USA? Like most stories, it’s full of unexpected events, opportunities, challenges, a few failures along the way, successes, long hours, and the support of some wonderful people.
From Calgary, I wanted to further my nursing career and landed in South Texas (and yes, there was some culture shock involved). Then later, now with an MBA under my belt, I followed a career path that led me to become CEO of a group of specialty hospitals.

Along the way, I’d become familiar with ketamine from using it as an extraordinarily safe anesthetic for pediatric burn patients.

I became fascinated by all the early clinical research into low dose ketamine as a remarkable treatment for the growing problems of treatment-resistant depression and PTSD. Cut to 2015 and with a truly visionary physician, a Ph.D. psychologist, and my wife Julie’s experience as Chief Marketing Officer, we launched Ketamine Wellness Centers. Our first clinic opened in Mesa Arizona and today we have 13 state-of-the-art clinics including here in in Jacksonville Florida.

Another question I get is: “You have a passion for patient care but why ketamine?” Simple. In my own family, I saw the terrible toll that PTSD can take on veterans, and I saw among colleagues and first-responders how selfless dedication can wind up in severe and chronic depression. I also saw the huge need for new, more effective treatments and a ketamine provider that, through authentic patient care and clinical expertise would earn the right to be called the leader in the specialty.

We have become that leader. We have just passed the 70,000 mark for successful patient treatments and we’re still growing and innovating. Now we are combining with Delic Corp to look at using our infrastructure of clinics to help with innovative mental wellness treatments using MDMA and psilocybin as soon as they too become approved by the FDA.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Many of you reading this will be all too aware of the challenges of starting a successful company. You may recognize the feeling of accomplishment that Julie and I shared when, after seven straight months of 7-day workweeks to ensure excellent patient care, there was that first unforgettable day… the day we finally felt able to pay ourselves!

There was one early challenge unique to what we do which we have since overcome.

At first, we ran into roadblocks thrown up by the mental health community. Ketamine therapy is now widely recognized as part of the mainstream of highly effective mental health treatments, but just a few years ago education and acceptance were an uphill struggle. In the early days, we heard everything you can imagine from “My doctor read it’s too dangerous” to “ketamine is recreational not therapeutic”.

Through our own efforts and those of academics, physicians, researchers, other ketamine advocates, and mountains of clinical studies thankfully those days are now behind us. Back then there was a laundry list of stigmas attached to ketamine as a “party drug” a “horse tranquilizer” and a “hallucinogen” to name a few. But, education always wins plus we got some help from an unexpected quarter when the Affordable Care Act created a major shift in attitudes towards mental health resources.

It’s true we still encounter challenges, for example, advertisers and digital platforms that will automatically cut us off. Making no attempt to learn the facts they may instantly try to blacklist us for promoting the illicit use of illegal drugs. Nothing could be further from the truth of what we do and the vital importance of reaching folks who have become hopeless and convinced the healthcare system has failed them.

Again, careful education and patience will win the day.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Ketamine Wellness Centers (KWC) is the largest ketamine therapy provider in the United States with 13 clinic locations across nine states and is honored to now be serving the community of Jacksonville Florida. Since 2011 KWC has been a trusted leader in bringing IV ketamine therapy into mainstream health care.

KWC has provided over 70,000 treatments to clinically eligible patients, from young adults to seniors, in addition to developing specialized programs for veterans and first responders. The KWC team, including a core group of physicians, psychologists, clinicians, and executives, is dedicated to providing value-based, personalized, clinically controlled ketamine infusion care for people suffering from treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and chronic pain.

KWC’s scalable business and treatment model is designed for further rapid expansion along with breakthrough innovations and effective therapies and services.

What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
Ketamine therapy represents a major breakthrough in psychiatry.

Advances in ketamine or ketamine-like treatments may greatly improve the quality of life for patients with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and chronic neuropathic pain who do not respond to current treatments.

The proven effectiveness of the clinical use of ketamine has paved the way for research evaluating novel approaches for the prevention and treatment of depression. This promising family of new medicines is already permanently changing the way we talk about and treat mental wellness issues.

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