To Your Health

Treatments at Evansville Ketamine Center are targeted to physical and mental ailments

Lisa Scheller sees the use of general anesthesia every day. But after observing how its effects also can comfort mental health patients, she sought to bring its benefits to a wider audience.

Scheller — a certified registered nurse anesthetist and advanced practice registered nurse at Owensboro Health in Kentucky — and her husband, Bill, opened Evansville Ketamine Center in 2020. The facility at 4703 Theater Drive offers ketamine infusion therapy as well as IV vitamin therapy.

Ketamine is a dissociative general anesthetic that creates relaxation, and some- times a dream state, in patients. When administered properly with professional oversight, ketamine is a safe treatment for several mental health conditions as well as some chronic pain syndromes.

“Ketamine isn’t a first-line treatment. It’s for treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, and PTSD. It’s meant to work in conjunction with other forms of therapy,” Scheller says.

Photo by Zach Straw

Ketamine as therapy hit headlines in October 2023 when it was named in Matthew Perry’s autopsy as a contributing factor in the actor’s death. To avoid misuse, administration of it is tightly controlled at Evansville Ketamine Center. Patients must be referred by their physician or licensed mental health provider. During a treatment — which lasts between 30 and 60 minutes and takes place in a private room — Scheller closely monitors the patient’s vital signs as a pump transfers the infusion via an IV. Each infusion is based on the patient’s weight and adjusted per treatment.

Because of ketamine’s dissociative nature, patients may revisit a source of trau- ma during their treatment but encounter it in a way that allows reevaluation, leading to a mental breakthrough. Ketamine can produce physical changes to the brain by creating new pathways in mood, emotion, and memory, and patients are encouraged to share their results with their mental health provider.

“Ketamine has been shown to be quite effective for people who don’t get to where they need to be with traditional psychotherapy alone,” says Laura Symon, a licensed psychotherapist and president and owner of Into the Light Mental Health and Consulting Services.

Symon has referred about 10 psychotherapy patients for ketamine treatments over the past two years. Impressions have varied. Some patients have experienced dissociation; others describe feeling lighter, like a weight has been lifted. Post-ketamine treatments, Symon’s patients have seen a decrease in depressive symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and loss of interest.

“It really can be a game changer for people who haven’t had success using traditional psychotherapy services,” she says, while stressing, “It’s not a one-stop shop. There are several complementary therapies that help, and this is one of those.”

Scheller says the center sees about 20 people per day, split evenly between ketamine and vitamin treatments.

“I had personal reasons for bringing these therapies to this community,” she says. “My dad is a Vietnam veteran and suffers from PTSD, and I have loved ones who suffer from depression. We really did open the clinic to help people.

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