Community Acupuncture: A Revolution in Health Care

$15 - $35 Acupuncture Treatments
"Providing Affordable Care for the Health of our Community"
(Used with permission of Jessica Feltz, co-producer)

While we're all still thinking about our various New Year's resolutions to get healthier and stay that way, let me share with you something that just might help you keep that promise to yourself. It's one of the best kept secrets in affordable health care in the U.S.: the community acupuncture network.

For T. and I, acupuncture was a godsend when we first tried it during our time in Hawaii. We found tremendous relief from many things, including sore joints, back aches, allergies, menstrual distress, insomnia, and stress, and shared some of those experiences in these pages in 2008. At that time we were receiving acupuncture from a doctor of Oriental Medicine, and our monthly treatments included comprehensive diagnostic interviews before each session and prescriptive herbal tonics to take home. The cost of each session was $55-80, depending on the length of the acupuncture session and the tonics prescribed. We were able to get monthly treatments at these rates. And although our insurance didn't cover acupuncture, we were able to pay out of our Flexible Spending Account (FSA) — in the U.S., it's a special savings account where money is set aside before it is taxed, but can only be used for certain health care related expenses.

Since leaving Hawaii 3½ years ago, we had gone without acupuncture until last September when we met Ms. Jessica Feltz, L.Ac. at an outdoor festival in downtown Frederick. She was offering free acupuncture treatments on-site at the festival as well as coupons for free introductory treatments at her clinic, Turning Point Acupuncture, where she offers treatment on a sliding scale of $15-35. I'll be honest, when I first heard Jessica say this, I looked at her a little sideways. As a former consumer fraud prosecutor, I had seen a fair share of "too good to be true" deals in my time, and skepticism was my armor. I asked her how on Earth she could charge so little when many acupuncture clinics in our area started their fee schedule almost twice her highest fee! She explained the community acupuncture concept this way: treatment is offered in a group setting, with clients resting in recliners arranged in an open room so the practitioner can treat multiple people (at her clinic, Jessica can treat 10 people at once) in the same hour in which other practitioners might treat 1 or 2 clients. She went on to say that this setting was closer in style to how acupuncture is offered in its traditional culture — that is, it's not reserved only for those who could afford costly treatments but is available to everyone as needed.

Yes, in the community room setting you can see the other clients in the room with you, but there is no need to undress or otherwise expose any part of the body except the legs up to the knees and the arms up to the elbows. The community room at Turning Point Acupuncture is an inviting place, full of natural light, and the ambient sounds of trickling water and meditative music. Jessica herself is a warm and calming presence — with a gentle touch and a caring ear, she creates a sense that your concerns and needs will be addressed during your time together. After my first visit, I was a convert to the community acupuncture model, and relieved I could afford the weekly treatments I needed for the symptoms that had relapsed during my long drought without acupuncture. I've also found I actually prefer the community setting to the private one (1 client per room) because often I sense a palpable energy in the community room that I find very healing in itself. During one visit early on, I was alone in the community room for the first 30 minutes or so, and it wasn't until another client had settled into his/her treatment that I noticed I reached the deepest part of my own relaxation. I've been able to use that experience as a touchstone against which to gauge how quickly I reach deep relaxation alone or when sharing Qi (chi) with others nearby!

Probably the most amazing thing about the community acupuncture concept is that each client decides how much s/he can afford on the scale of $15-35 per treatment. There is no income test at The Turning Point, or any of the other 120+ clinics in the community acupuncture network (CAN) in 34 U.S. states. During your first visit, your practitioner will discuss how often s/he think you should receive treatments (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.). The emphasis at Turning Point and CAN clinics is on clients — that they receive the treatments they need for their well-being and can afford to come as often as their practitioner recommends. It's quite an incredible model when compared to our prevailing health insurance system, which repeatedly demonstrates that it's driven primarily by profit and not by the patient's best interest. In fact, the CAN model has even found space to grow in places with universal health care — you can find clinics using the CAN model in Canada as well.

If you would like to learn more about the history of community acupuncture clinics and the impact they have on their communities, come to the Mid-Atlantic cinematic debut of a documentary about the movement, "Community Acupuncture - The Calmest Revolution Ever Staged," here in Frederick next Monday, January 30, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. at the MDL Holiday Cinemas. For tickets and information, call Turning Point Acupuncture at (240) 405-7878, or click here. The film's co-producer and local practitioner Jessica Feltz will be on hand to introduce the documentary and will open the floor to questions about acupuncture and the community acupuncture model after the screening. Tickets are just $10 per person, and Jessica will honor each ticket at her clinic for one acupuncture session in the weeks following the documentary's premiere! If you've always been curious about acupuncture but been shy about taking that next step, this screening offers a unique way to learn more, meet a local practitioner (and probably many of her happy clients), AND get a full acupuncture treatment (later in the week, not that night) for one very low price!

If you can't make it for the movie screening but are still curious about community acupuncture, this YouTube video features several CAN practitioners, including Ms. Feltz, and real clients from CAN clinics describing their experiences with community acupuncture. In their own words, including Spanish and ASL, clients describe what ailments brought them to the clinics and the relief they have received through treatments. It also gives you a peek at what community rooms in real clinics look like before you come!

The community acupuncture network bills itself as the "calmest revolution," but it's also been one of the quietest, — except maybe for the occasional client who is so relaxed during treatment that s/he falls asleep and starts snoring (yes, there are "shes" too)! Not one person I've talked to about community acupuncture had ever heard of it before, and that has got to change! I've done my best to introduce family and friends to community acupuncture here in Frederick and near where they live. Now I'm telling you, and hoping you will check it out and spread the love to your friends and kin, too.

Come join the Recliner Revolution!