Tetra Health Care founder Tracilea Young, center, patient care coordinator Amanda Camacho, left, and medical assistant Isabel Ortega pose in the lobby of the THC office in Clearwater, located at 2963 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., Suite 10.
CLEARWATER – The Clearwater branch of Tetra Health Care, located in an office building at 2963 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., resembles a typical medical office.
The lobby features clean carpeting, bright walls and sleek graphics displaying the company’s logo, and the staff members, dressed in medical scrubs, are professional and courteous. Only Tetra Heath Care, or THC, is not your typical clinic – at least not yet.
It’s a “premier medical marijuana recommendation clinic,” according to the company’s website, a place where patients consult with physicians and attend seminars to learn about the benefits of medical marijuana use.
But according to company founder Tracilea Young, as medical marijuana recommendation clinics become more common across the country, she wants her Tetra Health Care to become the model for the industry.
“A few years ago, it came to be that some of my friends and family members were going through cancer and other debilitating and chronic health issues,” said Young, a high-energy businesswoman with experience running plastic surgery centers in her native California.
“A friend has a 9-year-old with a feeding tube who’s been on every drug imaginable, and my ex-husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. He decided to go the cannabis route, and the (medical marijuana) recommendation centers were awful, just disgusting places. I went to a few centers, and I couldn’t imagine my friend bringing her young daughter to one. I said, this is wrong, somebody has to do this differently, and it’s going to be me.”
Young opened her first Tetra Health Care center in Sacramento in 2015, where she quickly learned the ins and outs of what she found was a very competitive field.
“There’s a lot of competition, but there’s a market for it, especially medically,” she said, noting she has no plans to work with recreational marijuana.
“The biggest thing is to get a doctor on board to partner with and run the medical group. We have a legal team. Our staff wears scrubs, our patients go through wellness exams, a doctor goes through their medical records. I was a vice president of plastic surgery centers that were nice, clean, inviting places, and I wanted to bring that look and feel to medical cannabis, to make it more professional and welcoming,” Young said.
After achieving success with her California center, Young turned her attention to the Sunshine State soon after voters passed the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative in November. She said she knew Florida would be an ideal home for her THC centers because studies show most medical marijuana patients are senior citizens that suffer from chronic and debilitating illnesses.
“Florida has the highest population of retirees, so when it went legal in November, it made sense to come here,” Young said. “The patients are so grateful they can access it. A lot of them have been waiting for it to come here. So many are fed up with just feeling awful. Every person says Florida has no customer service, and it’s the worst time to be treated with no compassion and understanding. I knew I had to change things.”
Young admitted she understands there are still questions and doubts surrounding the medical marijuana industry in general and recommendation clinics, specifically. But she believes the fears and concerns will subside over time as people become educated about the subject.
“I think as the state evolves into how to handle it, it will be more accepted and understood,” Young said. “There are still questions, but it should get straightened out. It’s like a pharmacy. It’s very professional. And very protected. It’s far from what people think.”
Young knows there will soon be plenty of competition for her THC centers, which is one reason she is moving forward with an aggressive expansion plan. Since January, she has opened two centers in Tampa and one in Brandon, in addition to the original office in Clearwater, and she plans to open two a month for a total of 25 by the end of January.
She said she believes as medical marijuana use becomes more accepted in the state, and society in general, Tetra Health Care will be leading the way to show how recommendation and referral centers should be run.
“I think competition is healthy. If you do everything with high morals and integrity, you don’t have to worry about competition,” Young said. “My goal is to help people, to get people back into the life they were living. That’s exactly why I opened Tetra Health Care. There’s an opportunity to set a high standard here, and I have a passion to make a difference.”