They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but there is such a thing as free care. Dozens of local practitioners of holistic and alternative treatment methods have been giving it away for years, under the name Health Care is a Human Right.
Each month, the collective of healers holds clinics in a number of places — the Darmstadt Shelter and Kirkland Hotel in Kingston, the Parish Hall on Main Street in Phoenicia and the Woodstock Community Center. (The Darmstadt clinics are open only to shelter and Family Inn residents and staff; all others are open to the public. The next one at the Kirkland, 2 Main St. Uptown, will be Thursday, Aug. 8, from 4-7 p.m.)
According to Susan Weeks, RPA-C, who co-founded the group 10 years ago and now serves as its director, the group’s mission is “to provide holistic health care to all regardless of ability to pay.”
The providers, or “faculty” of Health Care is a Human Right cover a broad span of disciplines: acupuncture, nutrition, homeopathy, massage therapy, reiki, energy work, hypnosis and more. All told, there are about 60, who all work pro bono, and more are being interviewed all the time, said Weeks.
Money truly is no object: insured or not, anyone seeking holistic care will be helped, for free. A triage procedure which involves the filling out of some forms and releases is done on each client but that’s about it. Which is not a bad deal at all, considering holistic and alternative care is not always covered by insurance or if covered, not very well, and can be expensive. “It gives people an opportunity to experience modalities that they normally wouldn’t be able to,” said acupuncturist and group managing director Julia Rose of Phoenicia.
The idea, said Weeks, is to bring healing back to its true basics: helping someone who needs help. “I think we have an amazing faculty of healers who are an example of what healing should be — people who are experts in their field and give of themselves selflessly to help others,” Weeks said, noting that it includes some of the most experienced practitioners in the area. “I’m really proud of them and I think they deserve a tremendous amount of credit.”
Last month’s clinic at the Kirkland featured a number of these providers treating a steady stream of people who appeared to be from numerous walks of life. Every nook and cranny of the hotel’s public interior space seemed to be in use — one room hosted massage, while a hypnotist set up in the landing between flights of stairs.
Weeks said serve anywhere from 40 to 100 people at each clinic, making for several thousand people treated each year. “As word gets out, we see more and more,” Weeks said. The organization increases its response when needed: “When the Hurricane Irene hit, for instance, we did seven weeks in a row in Phoenicia,” Weeks said.
Weeks believes that healing begins by listening, and by the practitioner giving his or her full attention to the patient — something that’s hard to find in conventional health care these days. “Paying attention, and entering into someone’s story and changing the narrative.”
Both Weeks and Rose hope the clinics expose more people to what holistic care has to offer. “I think that holistic medicine is, first of all, gentle. It can be very powerful, and that it should be part of everyone’s health care plan,” said Weeks. “I think that our medical system is a broken one at this point, and is a profit-driven system, which to me is antithetical to health care.”
“In a perfect world we would be able to have these clinics all the time,” said Rose, noting that if someone is curious but feels they’re too well off and don’t want to take up time that could be used by a person more in need, donations are always welcome. “People should come and experience and don’t be shy.”
On Sept. 15, there will be a fundraising concert for the effort at Keegan Ales; we’ll have more on that as the date approaches. For more information on the clinics and how to set up appointments, visit www.healthcareisahumanright.com.