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Snapshot: Dr. Selahattin Kurter: 'I felt I needed to do more'

Snapshot: Dr. Selahattin Kurter: 'I felt I needed to do more'


When Dr. Selahattin Kurter searched for a community to open a new clinic for mental health and addiction treatment, the Milwaukee native made sure he chose a location in dire need of those services.

Kenosha was the easy choice.

Focused on offering patients a personalized treatment plan including medication management, therapy and holistic methods, Kurter recently opened West Grove Clinic, 1400 75th St. The clinic, which accepts all major health insurances and state health insurance, offers substance abuse medication assisted treatment with Suboxone and Vivitrol and a focused intensive outpatient treatment program.

Kurter, board certified in psychiatry and addiction medicine, recently spoke to the News about Kenosha's newest clinic, the nation's opioid crisis and his unique path to medicine.

Q: What makes West Grove Clinic unique?

A: What makes us unique is we offer both mental health and addiction services. Some places just offer addiction services. Some places just offer mental health. We're very comprehensive because we know that, of patients who suffer from addiction, 70 percent of them have underlying mental health problems. The best way to treat them is with a comprehensive approach.

Q: Is this an underserved area in the medical field?

A: It's very underserved. I looked up the statistics (from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and I found out, which was news to me, that Kenosha is the most underserved city per capita (in Wisconsin) for the amount of addiction problems that they deal with. You would think maybe somewhere up north would be worse. No. It was Kenosha because of the reduced number of providers and the high need. One of our provider's family is from Kenosha and we talked about the dire need and we looked into it and agreed with her 100 percent.

Q: How did you choose your location within Kenosha?

A: We wanted to be in the heart of the city rather than an area on the interstate. We chose an area where the need is the highest.

Q: How has your first month gone for you at West Grove?

A:  It's been going really well. I can tell you Kenosha people are wonderful. They have been very welcoming. Kenosha has a small town feel in a big town. Everybody seems to know everybody in some way or fashion. Everyone we talk to tells us the need is tremendous for both mental health and addiction.

Q: How did you become one of the area's experts in addiction medicine?

A: When I first started 13 years ago, there were very little addiction specialists. You could literally count on the palm of one hand the addiction specialists in southeastern Wisconsin. At that time, the opioid crisis was just starting to emerge. I'd been an advocate for more help with addiction. I started working with pregnant women because the need for pregnant women who are addicted is tremendously high and few providers wanted the risk of treating those patients. I became known in southeastern Wisconsin for treating opiate addicted pregnant woman. After that, my name got out more.

Q: What has been the best form of treatment for those with addiction?

A: We're very eclectic, but yet we follow standards of care and evidence-based medicine. We try to get the best of everything so our patients feel they can incorporate different modalities towards their recovery with both mental health and addiction. Other clinics will just give medicine or just give therapy. We combine both. It's the combination that works. All major studies and organizations that work in addiction acknowledge that both psychotherapy, group work, working through mental health issues and addiction recovery, which includes medication, is the best treatment out there.

Q: Are most of your patients addicted to opioids?

A: We just started. We're still waiting to see how everything pans out. The majority of them are addicted to opiates. We're starting to see a lot of alcohol issues as well. Alcohol plays a major, major effect on society, actually more than the opioid crisis.

Q: Do you see the opioid epidemic getting better?

A: Unfortunately, I actually see it getting worse. We're making progress when it comes to prescription opiate abuse. The government and leading organizations have taken charge to educate doctors. We have the prescription database monitoring system, which allows doctors and pharmacists to see what patients are getting opiates and from where. Heroin and fentanyl use is really escalating. We're seeing rates that are four times higher than several years ago. Unfortunately, the drug dealers and cartels are recognizing those former opioid pill users are addicted to fentanyl and heroin.

Q: Who is ultimately to blame for this crisis?

A: It's multi-factorial. I don't think it's any one group or person or organization responsible. I think it's collective. I feel pharmaceutical companies were deceitful and did not tell doctors or the public the potential for addiction with opiate pain medicine. I think doctors slipped up by not educating themselves and not being aware of the potential for addiction. I think it also comes down to society. Society thinks we need a pill to fix everything. Unfortunately, that leads to the potential for addiction.

Q: The city of Kenosha recently took steps towards suing the drug companies to seek damages from its affect on the community. Do you support this action?

A: I support it wholeheartedly. The drug companies knew how addictive it was and kept that information secret. I think they're potentially liable. At the same time, I don't want to put it all on the drug companies. There's many issues surrounding it.

Q: What are some other issues that contributed to this?

A: Two years ago, patients could order fentanyl off the internet from China. There are many, many issues going on. Another one that's critically important is the lack of mental health treatment and the lack of resources and the lack of insurance companies paying for services. Insurance companies pay mental health providers 30- to 40-percent less than they do equivalent medical providers. For the same level of service. psychiatrists — who are medical doctors — are paid less. That causes a cascade where medical students don't want to go into psychiatry, and you have limited mental health providers. That affects society.

Q: I understand you didn't start out in medicine but rather started your own computer company while you did your undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Is this true?

A: That was another life of mine. I started a computer company on the south side of Milwaukee, and it operated for a good six to seven years. I've always been very entrepreneurial. It funded my way through college and my brother;s way through college. We did hardware assembly. This was before Dell was around. We did well. I think the important thing is I learned how to provide good customer service and find out what people need. That translates to my clinic, trying to fill patients' needs and serve a benefit to society.

Q: When did you decide to pursue medicine instead?

A: That was a very difficult decision. I deferred one year of medical school to focus on my business and make a decision. I wanted to challenge myself and be helpful in society in ways more than business. We were very successful. That wasn't the issue. I felt like I needed to do more. I had a consultant come in who worked with various companies. He said he could get me connected with other companies and make me a very rich man. I don't know if I felt fully satisfied doing that. I needed to do more. I've always been community oriented. There's more to life than making money.

Q: What else is there that people might not know about you?

A: I love movies. I love culture. I'm half Hispanic and half Turkish, so that's an interesting mix. I always felt like I could bridge both worlds.


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