Acupuncture for All

Affordable treatment in group settings is catching on
by Pamela O’Malley Chang, from Yes!
July-August 2008
Add to My MSN

image by the Philadelphia Community Acupuncture


Content Tools

Related Content

An (Ambitious) Alternative to Book Group

The idea of joining a book group can make some readers cringe. For the truly dedicated, “paired book...

Why Religious Americans Make Better Citizens

Religious Americans have a tough time turning down requests from their “moral communities,” which tr...

Fighting Neighborhood Crime, Nonviolently

In the early 1970s, one West Philadelphia neighborhood embraced a nonviolent alternative to police a...

Be Subversive: Sing with Your Neighbors

Community singing is making a comeback, bringing generations together and refueling activism…  

Skip Van Meter, an acupuncturist at Working Class Acupuncture in Portland, Oregon, led me into the treatment area and offered me a choice of recliners set in a series of living room–like groupings. I chose a seat in a softly lit circle where two people were reclined and napping with a fountain splashing in the background. Van Meter asked what ailed me, felt pulses at my wrist and neck, and then inserted a dozen hair-fine needles below my knees and elbows.

This treatment approach, called “community acupuncture” by its founders, is an alternative to standard acupuncture practice. Acupuncture can be effective, especially for chronic problems, but as a soon-to-graduate student of traditional Chinese medicine, I also knew it often requires multiple or frequent treatments. With fees averaging $65 per visit nationwide, who can afford results? Certainly not people who work part time or are retired, or the teachers, secretaries, and laborers I treated at my school clinic.

To correct this disparity, Lisa Rohleder, Skip Van Meter, and Lupine Hudson founded Working Class Acupuncture (WCA): a low-cost, community-supported acupuncture clinic that pays its staff a living wage. They opened the clinic in 2002 and a couple of years ago launched the nonprofit Community Acupuncture Network to spread their idea nationwide.

Acupuncture is inherently low cost and adaptable to any setting. The cost of disposable needles is just a few dollars per treatment. In the United States, however, private treatment rooms and lengthy one-on-one sessions with practitioners increase costs. At WCA, patients are scheduled at 10-minute intervals and are treated in a shared area. Payment is on a $15 to $35 sliding scale. The clinic sees some 400 patients a week at an average rate of $19 per visit.

Everyone gets a choice of recliner, a short whispered consultation with an acupuncturist, quick treatment while sitting comfortably and fully clothed, and the opportunity to doze off in a relaxing setting for minutes or hours. People come for everyday ailments such as backache, asthma, migraine, arthritis, common cold, indigestion, and food or drug cravings. The group setting creates a collective healing energy where friends can be treated together or newcomers can watch a treatment before being needled themselves.

The low fees enable clients to afford enough treatment to obtain good results. Over time, they come to see acupuncturists as health partners rather than remote experts. Vito, a WCA patient, sees his treatments as “taking myself in for a tune-up. It’s managed health care with me in the driver’s seat.”

“The health care system in the United States is seriously flawed,” says Barbara Chapman of the Sebastopol Community Acupuncture clinic in Sebastopol, California. “More than 50 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured. . . . Community acupuncture is an attempt to address this [gap] through a sustainable business model that offers affordable health care to most people in the community while enabling the acupuncturist to make a living.”

Since the Community Acupuncture Network launched, it has sponsored almost a dozen sliding scale workshops that encourage other acupuncturists to adopt the community-supported model. The network’s website (www.communityacupuncturenetwork.org) offers a directory of participating clinics, currently 60 of them in 18 states, as well as clinics that have adopted components of the community acupuncture model.

 

Pamela O’Malley Chang is a founding partner of Sarana Community Acupuncture in Albany, California (www.saranacommunityacupuncture.com). Excerpted from the “Liberate Your Space” issue of Yes!(Winter 2008). Subscriptions: $24/yr. (4 issues) from 284 Madrona Way NE, Suite 116, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110; www.yesmagazine.org.


Previous | 1 | 2 | Next






Post a comment below.

 

jill allison
7/23/2008 4:22:48 PM
The community acupuncture clinic at Country Doctor clinic in Seattle Washington is a unique entity. I do acupuncture in a conventional medical low income clinic. This model provides a way to make acupuncture available to everyone. This is a fee for service acupuncture clinic that charges the sliding scale fee from $15 to $35. The money earned by this clinic also helps suppport the conventional medical clinic. It is a wonderful thing that can be enjoyed by all.








Pay Now & Save $5!
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $31.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!