Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Acupuncture as a Player in the U.S. Escape Fire

Last weekend, CNN aired their film about the serious problems with the American Healthcare System, Escape Fire, for a second showing. Anyone in our profession who has yet to see it should try to catch it online, as it gives acupuncture an important send up! Our strange bedfellow in this film is the U.S. military, which is "trying to figure out how to integrate this service" into all levels of active duty and veteran PTSD care. One of the guys at the top of medical services in the Pentagon, General David Fridovich, states clearly that the military doesn't need more research studies to be convinced that acupuncture works well for PTSD, specifically the NADA protocol, they only are struggling to figure out how to integrate these services (which is probably "code" for figuring out how to pay for them). Another problem is that "acupuncturist" is not one of the coded professions on the list of health care professionals on the EASR-VHP (pronounced "esar-vip") system that allows governmental agencies to hire acupuncturists, understand exactly what we do, and know what our pay scale should be. Getting our profession on that list with proper reimbursement codes would be a major hurdle for us.

While I know there are many heroes in this work, two come to mind that I count as personal friends or at least acquaintances. The first of those is Frank Yurasek, Assistant Dean of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, IL, who has single-handedly created and staffed a free clinic for veterans with PTSD through one of the largest hospitals in the Chicago area. They are treating 25-30 per week now and are in negotiations to open two more similar programs at area VA hospitals that will significantly increase the number of patients treated. Frank, now 73 years young, has been tireless in this work, stating that "acupuncture is an idea whose time has come," especially due to the fact that hospitals and the VA have a mandate to find alternatives to using morphine derivatives to ease pain. He is working every day to give us a permanent seat at the integrative-medicine table.

Second is Deb Boehme, a veteran and PTSD sufferer herself, Deb has worked hard to get acupuncture included in standard disaster emergency response teams in her home state of New Mexico. She also runs a successful free weekly clinic, open to all veterans and their families, that has been in operation for several years in Albuquerque. Deb, an active member of the New Mexico Medical Response Corps (MRC), has brought her considerable expertise from a life-time of working with the military as well as state and federal disaster response teams to Acupuncture Without Borders, with which group she is a regular instructor.

These are just two of those who are called to the service both of trauma sufferers as well as the larger acupuncture community! Think what could happen if we all participated in these efforts?

So check out the Escape Fire movie (and no, I won't give away the reason it is called by that name), and think about how you could help this growing awareness and respect for acupuncture in our nation and become even more a part of the solution to our nation's serious medical-care problems than you already are! My commitment is to complete MRC required trainings and certifications to be a part of any local disaster response in my own area.
Thanks for reading and best wishes.

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