Dear Patients, Friends, and Colleagues,
This month marks a special occasion - the ninth anniversary of Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles (KCLA). It's been my greatest honor and challenge to co-create KCLA with my father, Dr. Steven L. Mandel, and serve as the clinic's Chief Operating Officer for nine years. I am pleased to announce my new title of Chief Executive Officer. My role will mostly stay the same, and I will still fulfill my COO obligations. I want to reflect on where we have come from and shed some light on what's next.
Dr. Mandel and I started in a plastic surgery suite in Santa Monica, where Dr. Mandel headed the anesthesiology department. Our office was a 7 x 8 ft closet with a folding table, two folding chairs, two laptops, and a prepaid cell phone from Radio Shack. I still have the original Motorola flip phone manual with "Ketamine Phone" written across the cover in red sharpie. After about one year of sitting at the same folding table, we decided some real desks and desk chairs were necessary. I still have a sketch of the little closet we called home, which was created by the furniture company that made our custom furniture for us. We needed it made custom to maximize every inch - literally. As a matter of fact, I am sitting at one of those original custom desks from 2014 as I write this letter. We added a narrow steel cabinet for some supplies, and voila, KCLA got its first makeover.
We cared for patients in the operating room recovery area on the other side of our little room. After a couple of years of this, we realized the need for more space, especially since using the restroom was a coordinated effort due to the confinement of the closet we called home. Musical chairs ensued constantly, the mere act of breathing could be disruptive, and the treatment space wasn't as cozy as we desired for our patients. So we took the leap of faith and got our own space in Brentwood, on the Wilshire Corridor of Los Angeles.
In Brentwood, we found 1,700 sq ft of our very own! Wow. What did we do with such a massive upgrade? Cramp ourselves almost as much. Like a goldfish, we got into our bigger bowl and grew fast to fill it. In early 2016, we hired a couple of nurses, and Alyssa was the first to join us as our official Patient Care Coordinator. Soon after, we added Angel, our Director of Operations, and Denisse, one of our favorite nurses. I am so grateful that Alyssa, Angel, and Denisse are still with us today; they are some of the pillars of this company. Thank you for your loyalty and dedication to us and your patients, Alyssa, Angel, and Denisse. We love you!
We’ve all been through a lot together over the years. One Monday morning, we came into work to find our entire suite had been flooded from the water tower on the roof of the Brentwood building! Ceiling tiles soaked up water till they burst, making quite a mess. We cleaned up and started seeing patients without delay or a ceiling that day. Another time there was a bomb threat that locked down the whole building for a while. Since no one was allowed in or out, we continued to care for the patients already in the clinic. What else could we do? On one particularly stormy day, we had a power outage, leaving us with the choice of closing or using flashlights and lanterns to work; we chose the latter. Batteries powered our infusion pumps and vital monitors. I went to the hardware store for headlamps. Treatment must go on.
Our Brentwood space offered us three treatment rooms, a large back office, a waiting room, a reception area, a galley, and a bathroom. I made the galley my office and sat at a kitchen table, wedged in the corner between a fridge and the wall. If I ever forgot I was working in a kitchen, a bump from the fridge door reminded me; a collision that happened every time someone opened it to retrieve their lunch or juice for a recovering patient. If the fridge bump wasn't enough, the constant smells from microwaved food and interruptions from those waiting for said food were enough to remind me my office was indeed a kitchen. These inadvertent one-minute daily meetings I got to have one-on-one with the entire team may have contributed to our success, but there is no doubt they also contributed to my current hairdo; bald. There were better environments for a COO to build a new business, but this one was mine. After three years here, we needed more space. Again, we took the leap of faith and acquired our current office in the Playa District at the edge of Culver City.
When we moved from Brentwood to Culver City, we treated patients up until 2 pm on a Friday, boxed up the office immediately after, the movers came Saturday at 8am, and we saw patients in the new office by Monday at 9 am. There were countless issues, as I’m sure you can imagine. Some things didn't go as planned with such a tight timeline, but we got it done. Spectrum internet may have had to send three trucks for six hours after realizing no one in any department of Spectrum would know peace until KCLA had internet that day, but we got it done. We’ve had so many wild events and bizarre situations I couldn't possibly describe half of them. The only thing that matters is we always showed up for our patients and one another, no matter what. These moments bonded our long-time staff early on.
In Culver City, we built out 3,600 sq ft from scratch, a blank canvas we could make our own. We carefully chose every little detail to create a beautiful space with optimum safety, comfort, and efficiency. More clinical and administrative people joined the team, and after five years of 70-80 hour weeks, I finally got an office of my own! Last year we renovated this suite and expanded into the adjacent space next door. We now have 5,000 sq ft and 17 employees.
KCLA has treated over 5,000 patients, provided more than 17,000 infusions, and maintained an 83% success rate in relieving suffering. We have led ketamine for mental health into the mainstream and continue disseminating accurate information in a world dominated by misinformed and uninformed people. We have loyally stuck with ketamine for so long, not because we are so in love with ketamine but because we are in love with helping people to transform and heal; ketamine is simply the most effective tool we have.
KCLA has added conventional psychiatric medication management and next month, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and Spravato to our treatment offerings. We are adding these other modalities to provide more comprehensive care and increase access to care. We have begun going in-network with insurance for these additional treatments and will send more information by next week. Ketamine remains a non-covered service. KCLA is evolving into an interventional psychiatry practice specializing in the latest and greatest evidence-based innovations in mental health treatment. We provide these innovations in a state-of-the-art facility, with personalized care, and through the most compassionate and knowledgeable team. As the evidence grows for the safety and efficacy of MDMA, psilocybin, and other psychedelics, they, too, will be incorporated into our practice. Additional locations may be an inevitable part of our future plans.
Dr. Mandel and I have done all this over the last nine years with very few resources and nothing but a desire to help people heal. We did not seek investors or business partners; it was just the two of us, some credit cards and a little cash in the formative days. We faced tremendous opposition from everyone, but we didn't let it deter us because we knew we were doing meaningful work; the results spoke for themselves.
Today, what continues to make KCLA great is our team.
I value each individual. From the long-term dreamers who came aboard a ship that set sail as she was still being assembled to the newest teammates who started their journey with us on an elegant cruiseliner three months ago. I'm so grateful for all of them and the world-class work they do every single day. I live for the opportunity to serve this team and our community. Our patients inspire me to persevere, as does the collaboration of other clinicians who are hard at work to do real, measurable good for patients.
KCLA has a BIG year ahead which will be filled with many fantastic opportunities and just as many challenges. Thank you for placing your trust in KCLA for nine years. To many more years of helping people heal!
Cofounder & Chief Executive Officer