Interview with Andrea Turnipseed, Executive Director, Roots Behavioral Health

Andrea Turnipseed Interview - GCI Content Hub
Andrea Turnipseed Interview - GCI Content Hub

Interview with Andrea Turnipseed, Executive Director of Roots Behavioral Health

Could you give our readers an overview of your professional background, and what led you to the psychedelics space?

I have worked in mental health for over 10 years as a licensed clinical social worker. I have worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings, working with people with a variety of different backgrounds and needs. About 5 years ago my husband, Brent Turnipseed (a psychiatrist), and I created Roots Behavioral Health to expand access to mental healthcare. I am the executive director, running the day-to-day operations for over 30 employees, as well as providing therapy on a regular basis. About 3 years ago we became interested in ketamine as an alternative to traditional medication and therapy for our patients. After we saw the powerful changes that occurred with our first few patients, we never looked back!

For much of our global audience, the notion of ketamine therapy is quite a new one! Can you speak a little to the business of Ketamine Clinics, for example: what needs to happen before a clinic is set up? How do you ensure their legality? How do you market your services?

Every country or state is different on licensing and regulation, which makes it tricky. In Texas, you need a medical doctor – in our case a psychiatrist – to prescribe ketamine, someone who feels confident with how to dose and administer. Ketamine dosing is truly an artform and understanding the effects, goals, and outcomes is essential to have an ethically based and competent provider. At Roots, we also confirmed with the Texas Medical Board and malpractice insurance carrier that we were able to do this work and what safety measures and protocols would be needed for our specific practice. Finally, for ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, the treatment will require a trained and experienced therapist to serve as the guide and integrate the experience for the patient. Ketamine has been legal for over 50 years and is more recently prescribed off-label for depression. Marketing has come from word of mouth and organic interest in alternative treatments for mood disorders.  We have placed a bigger focus on educating practitioners in the community that ketamine-assisted psychotherapy exists and the safety and benefits it can have for their patients.

Do you have a typical profile of patient who is best suited to ketamine therapy? Do you find there is a particular type of patient (and/or medical condition) that ketamine therapy has proven to be most popular for?

At Roots Behavioral Health we only treat adults 18-64 and that is an ideal population for ketamine therapy as they can derive insight from their treatments and make lasting changes in their lives. We began using ketamine to treat treatment resistant depression (TRD) and have expanded to other mood disorders and have seen improvements in patients with a range of mental health disorders including anxiety, OCD, substance abuse and even eating disorders.

At your clinic, you take patients through guided therapies; there are also clinics that are best positioned as Infusion Centres. What is the core difference between the two types of treatment and the experience for the patients?

As with any clinic there are differences based on the goals, values, and background of the leaders. At Roots, psychiatry and mental health is our expertise.  Psychiatry tells us that medications can be helpful, but medications coupled with therapy is the most robust way to treat mental health in an individual.  In addition, as opposed to infusion centers, we offer other alternative treatments if ketamine is not the appropriate treatment for an individual. We respect the power of ketamine and do not prescribe it to everyone; those who we do prescribe to must be dedicated to completing treatment with therapy. Not everyone is willing or able to do therapy with ketamine so it is fortunate that there are other types of ketamine centers available. At Roots we do offer both IV and IM depending on needs of the client and offering multiple types of administration is helpful to customizing care.

Currently, how do patients pay for their treatment? Is it private or can it be covered by insurance? Is this likely to change any time soon?

Ketamine is not a covered treatment by insurance. At Roots, we do take insurance for traditional medication management and when possible for intake or follow-up appointments to help reduce the overall cost of the treatment protocol.  Presently, we are developing research with an insurance company to help evaluate the efficacy and cost effectiveness of ketamine therapy, in the hope that it becomes a treatment covered by insurance. We hope to have results within a year, and possibly have this treatment covered by 2022.

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To hear more from Andrea Turnipseed and learn about Psychedelics, check out the GCI Virtual Summit.