The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has finally put access to medical services within the reach of just about everyone. We can all have an annual checkup, see the doctor when we’re feeling sick, and get treatment for what ails us. But something the ACA has not done is make what are called “alternative” healthcare modalities available to everyone. Medical insurance doesn’t pay for acupuncture or chiropractic, not to mention homeopathy, naturopathy, Reiki, craniosacral therapy, hypnotherapy and a long list of others.
Those with deep enough pockets pay alternative practitioners privately, of course. But many would choose them, even over standard treatments (almost exclusively pharmaceutical and surgical) if they were included in insurance coverage.
This was the problem addressed by Saugerties resident and physician assistant Susan Weeks in 2003 when she pulled together a community of alternative practitioners and called it Health Care is a Human Right. Monthly clinics are held in Kingston and quarterly clinics are held in Woodstock and Phoenicia.
According to Weeks, the organization includes about 65 volunteers, including three medical doctors and one naturopathic MD. Some volunteer only at the clinic in or near their own community, but many travel to multiple clinics. Services are free, although donations are hoped for. Besides offering treatments, the clinics and the organization in general serve as wellness centers, promoting the philosophy that each of us can get healthy and stay healthy by educating ourselves about lifestyle choices and alternative treatment.
Another alternative healthcare community with a similar mission was formed in Rosendale in 2011.
Dubbed the Rondout Valley Holistic Healthcare Community, it began operating in the Marbletown Community Center within a year and has held monthly events there ever since. The board is a diverse group of practitioners that yoga teacher and board member Donna Nisha Cohen describes as a “council circle” whose concerns reach beyond the usual operations and fundraising functions to focus on the evolutionary stages of group development and mutual support at their monthly meetings.
This community also offers alternative modalities at no charge, encouraging donations of either cash or volunteer assistance in exchange for services. If neither is possible, they suggest providing services where need is apparent, such as preparing a meal for a sick neighbor or providing childcare. Free holistic self-care class are available every month at the Community Center.
Both groups are independent, with official nonprofit status.
Health Care is a Human Right hopes to increase its outreach through presence at community events. It also has a slot on Gary Bischoff’s weekly radio program on Kingston Community Radio (Second Mondays, 7:30-8 a.m.) during which members explain the various alternative treatment modalities. They already run a clinic that serves the homeless population at Darmstadt House and hope to expand services with targeted programs for specific populations, such as caregivers.
How does holistic healthcare practice differentiate itself from the more standard “allopathic” medical practice that insurance companies pay for? Cornelia Wathen, one of the founders of the Rondout Valley Community, explains it this way.
“[It’s] an exciting new paradigm of healthcare — (a shift) from a mechanistic paradigm based on treating symptoms after they arise to a holistic paradigm that considers the whole person — body, mind, emotions, and spirit — in the quest for optimal health and wellness. According to the holistic philosophy, one can achieve optimal health by gaining proper balance in life. The doctor/therapist uses non-invasive modalities whenever possible. Treatment involves healing the underlying cause of the condition, not just the symptoms. Essentially, holistic medicine is based on the belief that unconditional love and support is the most powerful healer and a person is ultimately responsible for his or her own health and well-being.”
I attended the Rondout Valley Community’s May event and was deeply impressed with the atmosphere of care created by every volunteer staffer there, from reception through intake and checkout. Clients request the practitioner they wish to see, providing alternates if possible. Nutritious snacks provided by local cafes (High Falls Food Co-Op and Big Cheese at the May event) are available for people waiting for treatments, as are a neck-and-shoulder massage therapist and an affirmation circle called EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). The atmosphere is conducive to meeting and chatting with people, both other clients and volunteer staff. Or you can just sit on the comfy couches and enjoy the flowers provided by Green Cottage. All are welcome and made to feel so.
I sampled the EFT circle, got a mini-massage, and enjoyed the snack table while waiting for my practitioner to be available. As I wasn’t there with a specific health issue, I took potluck and was treated to a wonderful session of Brennan Healing Science which I enjoyed — and no doubt benefited from enormously. The care and attention I got from my practitioner were extraordinary.
I also attended the Healthcare is a Human Right Kingston clinic, held last week at the Kirkland Hotel in uptown. The intake procedure is a little different, as each client has an interview with Susan Weeks before having a practitioner assigned or suggested, but the atmosphere of care felt exactly the same. The practitioners I spoke with felt privileged to offer their services to the community who would not otherwise have been able to afford them. I treated myself to a lovely session of flower therapy with a herbologist who travels from New Paltz and came home with a vial of flower essences specially formulated for me.
What would it take to have a clinic in Saugerties? Susan Weeks says it’s been a dream of hers, although the organization is overstretched at present. But if Saugerties practitioners not already involved in the other clinics wanted to start something, my impression was that she’d be receptive. In the meantime, we Saugertiesians are welcome at clinics in Kingston, Woodstock, Phoenicia and Marbletown. Try it out!
Here’s a more complete list of modalities offered by these two organizations. Healthcare is a Human Right: acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic, craniosacral therapy, EFT, Feldenkrais, flower essences, herbology, homeopathy, energy psychology, shiatsu massage, flower essences, reflexology, Reiki, nutritional counseling, sound healing, traditional Chinese medicine, matrix energetics, massage, and hypnotherapy. Rondout Valley Holistic Healthcare Community: massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, neurofeedback, family medicine, biophoton therapy, guided self-inquiry, craniosacral therapy, nutritional counseling, emotional freedom technique (EFT), Brennan healing science, One Light healing touch, Infinity healing practice, psychological therapies, reconnective healing, plant spirit medicine, yoga therapeutics, Jin Shin Jyutshu, hypnotherapy, reflexology, homeopathy, nursing, and Reiki. There is some overlap among modalities and practitioners; not all modalities are available each and every time.