Westmont mental health center opens doors to veterans, civilians alike

Michael Gershenzon, chief strategy and financial officer, says Westmont is a good location for Stella. (Photo Steve Metsch)

The newest addition to the Westmont business community is focused on the mental health and well-being of veterans and those who have not served in the military.

“It’s for anybody,” Chief Strategy and Financial Officer Michael Gershenzon said recently at the new office of Stella, 1 E. Oak Hill Drive, noting about 25% of clients have military backgrounds.

Stella had a soft opening in April and a ribbon-cutting in mid-August.

Stella provides cutting-edge care for emotional trauma and mental health conditions that include post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, stress, traumatic brain injury and the neurological effects of long COVID.

Since launching in 2020, the company’s mission is to reimagine how the world treats mental health conditions and become the go-to destination for individuals seeking comprehensive, transformative and compassionate care.

The 36-year-old Gershenzon was inspired by a friend who knew somebody who was successfully treated for PTSD by Dr. Eugene Lipov, the driving force behind Stella.

That friend, who tragically took his own life a few years ago, had left a note urging Gershenzon to make sure Stella became a reality.

“We started the company in February of 2020, the worst time to start a business,” he said.

However, he was committed to making Stella happen. And it has.

Stella offers individualized options curated to each patient’s needs such as ketamine assisted psychotherapy, dual sympathetic reset via stellate ganglion block, trauma-informed talk therapy and multi-modality protocols, Lipov said.

“The last four months have been a dizzy pace. We’ve opened four [mortar-and-brick] locations. This location here we fitted to our needs. The other locations are New York, D.C., and Irvine south of L.A.,” Gershenzon said.

“We’ve also hired a team of nurse practitioners, specifically psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners. They provide psychological care,” he said.

“We’ve gone from almost shutting down within a week [in 2020] to pursuing this franchise model to having a hybrid of network-owned sites,” Gershenzon said.

Stella is most widely known for the dual sympathetic reset protocol treatment pioneered by Lipov, who began using stellate ganglion block in 2004 to relieve menopause symptoms in cancer patients.

The Stella name is based on that treatment.

Since the 1920s, SGB was used as a pain-relieving treatment, Lipov said.

Today, Lipov said it is 85% successful in relieving the symptoms of post-traumatic stress and trauma both safely and effectively by resetting a patient’s sympathetic nervous system – aka fight or flight response – to a pre-trauma state.

Patients range in age from their teens to their 80s with a mix of male and female, Gershenzon said.

“So far, so good. We’re trying to replicate this model in New York, Irvine and D.C.,” he said. “It’s a lot of new things.”

Lipov’s efforts were aided when then-Sen. Barack Obama wrote a letter to the Department of Defense to start looking into his treatment plans.

Lipov said he sort of stumbled across the treatment, which he first used to help a female patient with hot flashes.

“It worked very well for her and I forgot about it for a year,” he said.

He researched the SGB topic and found a connection to the brain and the sympathetic nervous system.

More than 10,000 patients later, Lipov is happy to say the treatments have worked for people suffering from PTSD.

The number of treatments needed depends on the patient, he said.

Lipov said he is especially pleased with the Westmont location, calling it “our flagship” that is easy to get to from Chicago and the suburbs.